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Presented to the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 
LIBRARY . 

by the 

ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE 
LIBRARY 



1980 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

Microsoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/diaryofnursingsiOOnursuoft 



Diary of a Nursing Sister 
on the Western Front 

1914-1915 



Diary of a Nursing Sister 
on the Western Front 



1914-19*5 



" Naught broken save this body, lost but breath. 
Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there, 
But only agony, and that has ending ; 
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death." 



William Blackwood and Sons 

Edinburgh and London 

1915 



AT.T. RTaTJTS KRRFRVFD 




44.30* 



Aj? 

/9/r 



INTRODUCTION. 



This Journal was written with no idea of publi- 
cation. As it was thought that some of it might 
interest others outside the Author's family, for 
whom the Journal was kept, these selections — 
which are given exactly as they were written — 
are published. 



PUBLISHERS' NOTE. 

At the Author's request the Journal was sub- 
mitted to the Press Censor, and has been passed 
by him. 



CONTENTS. 



I. WAITING FOR ORDERS, AUGUST 1 8, 1914, TO 

SEPTEMBER 14, 1914 . . . . I 

The voyage out — Havre — Leaving Havre — 
R.M.S.P. "Asturias"— St Nazaire— Orders at 
last. 

II. LE MANS — WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE — 
SEPTEMBER 1 5, 1914, TO OCTOBER II, 
I9H 33 

Station duty — On train duty — Orders again 
— Waiting to go— Still at Le Mans — No. — Sta- 
tionary Hospital — Off at last— The Swindon of 
France. 

III. ON NO. — AMBULANCE TRAIN (i) — FIRST 

EXPERIENCES — OCTOBER 1 3, 1914, TO 
OCTOBER 19, 1 91 4 . . . . . 65 

Ambulance Train — Under fire — Tales of the 
Retreat — Life on the Train. 

IV. ON NO. AMBULANCE TRAIN (2) FIRST 

BATTLE OF YPRES — OCTOBER 20, I914, TO 
NOVEMBER 1 7, 1914 8 1 

Rouen — First Battle of Ypres — At Ypres — A 
rest — A General Hospital. 



vi CONTENTS 

V. ON NO. AMBULANCE TRAIN (3) — BRITISH 

AND INDIANS NOVEMBER 1 8, I914, TO 

DECEMBER 17, 1914 . ' . . .Ill 

The Boulogne siding — St Omer — Indian 
soldiers — His Majesty King George — Lanca- 
shire men on the War — Hazebrouck — Bailleul — 
French engine-drivers — Sheepskin coats — A 
village in N.E. France — Headquarters. 

VI. ON NO. — AMBULANCE TRAIN (4) CHRISTMAS 

AND NEW YEAR ON THE TRAIN — DECEMBER 

18, 1914, TO JANUARY 3, 1915 . . 143 

The Army and the King — Mufflers — Christ- 
mas Eve — Christmas on the train — Princess 
Mary's present — The trenches in winter — "A 
typical example " — New Year's Eve at Rouen — 
The young officers. 

VII. ON NO. AMBULANCE TRAIN (5) — WINTER 

ON THE TRAIN AND IN THE TRENCHES — 
JANUARY 7, 191 5, TO FEBRUARY 6, 1915 . 1 65 

The Petit Vitesse siding — Uncomplainingness 
of Tommy — Painting the train — A painful convoy 
— The "Yewlan's" watch — "Officer dressed in 
bandages " — Sotteville — Versailles — The Palais 
Trianon — A walk at Rouen — The German view, 
and the English view — 'Punch' — "When you 
return Conqueror" — K.'s new Army. 

VIII. ON NO. AMBULANCE TRAIN (6) ROUEN — 

NEUVE CHAPELLE — ST ELOI— FEBRUARY 7, 
1915, TO MARCH 31, 1915 . . . 199 

The Indians — St Omer — The Victoria League 
— Poperinghe — A bad load — Left behind — 
Rouen again — An "off" spell — En route to 
Etretat— Sotteville— Neuve Chapelle — St Eloi 
— The Indians — Spring in N.W. France — The 
Convalescent Home — Kitchener's boys. 



CONTENTS vii 

IX. WITH NO. FIELD AMBULANCE ( I ) — BILLETS : 

LIFE AT THE BACK OF THE FRONT — APRIL 2, 
1915, TO APRIL 29, 191 5 .... 237 

Good Friday and Easter, 191 5 — The Maire's 
Chateau — A walk to Beuvry — The new billet — 
The guns — A Taube — The Back of the Front — 
— A soldier's funeral — German machine-guns — 
Gas fumes — The Second Battle of Ypres. 

X. WITH NO. FIELD AMBULANCE (2) — FESTU- 

BERT, MAY 9 AND 1 6 MAY 6, 191 5, TO MAY 

26, I915 273 

The noise of war — Preparation — Sunday, 
May 9 — The barge — The officers' dressing 
station — Charge of the Black Watch, May 9 
— Festubert, May 16— The French Hospital— A 
bad night — Shelled out — Back at a Clearing 
Hospital— "For duty at a Base Hospital." 



I. 



Waiting for Orders 

August 18, 19 14, to September 14, 1914 



" Troops to our England true 
Faring - to Flanders, 
God be with all of you 
And your commanders." 

— G. W. Brodribb. 



I. 

Waiting for Orders. 

August 18, 1914, to September 14, 1914. 

The voyage out — Havre — Leaving Havre — R.M.S.P. 
"Asturias" — St Nazaire — Orders at last. 

S.S. City of Benares {Troopship). 
Tuesday, 8 p.m., August iSth. — Orders just gone 
round that there are to be no lights after dark, 
so I am hasting to write this. 

We had a great send-off in Sackville Street in 
our motor-bus, and went on board about 2 p.m. 
From then till 7 we watched the embarkation 
going on, on our own ship and another. We 
have a lot of R.E. and R.F.A. and A.S.C., and a 
great many horses and pontoons and ambulance 
waggons : the horses were very difficult to em- 
bark, poor dears. It was an exciting scene all the 
time. I don't remember anything quite so thrill- 
ing as our start off from Ireland. All the 600 khaki 
men on board, and every one on every other ship, 



4 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

and all the crowds on the quay, and in boats and 
on lighthouses, waved and yelled. Then we and 
the officers and the men, severally, had the King's 
proclamation read out to us about doing our duty 
for our country, and God blessing us, and how 
the King is following our every movement. 

We are now going to snatch up a very scratch 
supper and turn in, only rugs and blankets. 

Wednesday, August igth. — We are having a 
lovely calm and sunny voyage — slowed down in 
the night for a fog. I had a berth by an open 
port - hole, and though rather cold with one 
blanket and a rug (dressing-gown in my trunk), 
enjoyed it very much — cold sea bath in the 
morning. We live on oatmeal biscuits and potted 
meat, with chocolate and tea and soup squares, 
some bread and butter sometimes, and cocoa at 
bed-time. 

There is a routine by bugle-call on troopships, 
with a guard, police, and fatigues. The Tommies 
sleep on bales of forage in the after well-deck and 
all over the place. We have one end of the 
ist class cabin forrard, and the officers have 
the 2nd class aft for sleeping and meals, but 
there is a sociable blend on deck all day. Two 
medical officers here were both in South Africa 
at No. 7 when I was (Captains in those days), 
and we have had great cracks on old times and 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 5 

all the people we knew. One is commanding a 
Field Ambulance and goes with the fighting 
line. There are 200 men for Field Ambulances 
on board. They don't carry Sisters, worse luck, 
only Padres. 

We had an impromptu service on deck this 
afternoon ; I played the hymns, — never been on a 
voyage yet without being let in for that. It was 
run by the three C. of E. Padres and the Wes- 
leyan hand in hand : the latter has been in the Nile 
Expedition of '98 and all through South Africa. 
We had Mission Hymns roared by the Tommies, 
and then a C. of E. Padre gave a short address 
— quite good. The Wesleyan did an extempore 
prayer, rather well, and a very nice huge C. of E. 
man gave the Blessing. Now they are having a 
Tommies' concert — a talented boy at the piano. 

At midday we passed a French cruiser, going 
the opposite way. They waved and yelled, and 
we waved and yelled. We are out of sight of 
English or French coast now. I believe we are 
to be in early to-morrow morning, and will have 
a long train journey probably, but nobody knows 
anything for certain except where we land — 
Havre. 

It seems so long since we heard anything about 
the war, but it is only since yesterday morning. 
(The concert is rather distracting, and the wind 
is getting up — one of the Tommies has an 



6 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

angelic black puppy on his lap, with a red cross 
on its collar, and there is a black cat about.) 

Thursday, August 2oth, 5 p.m., Havre. — We got 
in about 9 o'clock this morning. Havre is a very 
picturesque town, with very high houses, and a 
great many docks and quays, and an enormous 
amount of shipping. The wharves were as usual 
lined with waving yelling crowds, and a great 
exchange of Vive l'Angleterre from them, and 
Vive la France from us went on, and a lusty 
roar of the Marseillaise from us. During the 
morning the horses and pontoons and waggons 
were disembarked, and the R.E. and Field 
Ambulances went off to enormous sheds on the 
wharf. We went off in a taxi in batches of 
five to the Convent de St Jeanne d'Arc, an 
enormous empty school, totally devoid of any 
furniture except crucifixes! Luckily the school 
washhouse has quite good basins and taps, and 
we are all camping out, three in a room, to 
sleep on the floor, as our camp kit isn't avail- 
able. No one knows if we shall be here one 
night, or a week, or for ever ! It is a glorious 
place, with huge high rooms, and huge open 
casements, and broad staircases and halls, 
windows looking over the town to the sea. We 
are high up on a hill. There's no food here, 
so we sit on the floor and make our own break- 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 7 

fast and tea, and go to a very swanky hotel 
for lunch and dinner. We are billeted here for 
quarters, and at the hotel for meals. 

A room full of mattresses has just been dis- 
covered to our joy, and we have all hauled one 
up to our rooms, so we shall be in luxury. 

Just got a French paper and seen the Pope is 
dead, and a very enthusiastic account of the British 
troops at Dunkerque, their marvellous organisa- 
tion, their cheerfulness, and their behaviour. 

Just seen on the Official War News placarded 
in the town that the Germans have crossed the 
Meuse between Liege and Namur, and the 
Belgians are retiring on to Antwerp. The Allies 
must buck up. 

The whole town is flying flags since the troops 
began to come in ; all the biggest shops and 
buildings fly all four of the Allies. 

Friday, A tig ust 21st. — Intercession Day at home. 
There is a beautiful chapel in the Convent. 

There is almost as much censoring about the 
movement of the French troops in the French 
papers as there is about ours in the English, 
and not a great deal about the movements of 
the Germans. 

There are 43 Sisters belonging to No. — 
General Hospital on the floor below us camp- 
ing out in the same way — 86 altogether in the 



8 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

building, one wing of which is the Sick Officers' 
Hospital of No. — G.H. 

The No. — people are moving up the line 
to-night. It will take a few days to get No. — 
together, and then we shall move on at night. 
The Colonel knows where to, but he has not 
told Matron ; she thinks it will be farther up 
than Amiens or Rheims, where two more have 
already gone, but it is all guess-work. I expect 

No. — from C is in Belgium. (It was at 

Amiens and had to leave in a hurry.) 

The whole system of Field Medical Service has 
altered since South Africa. The wounded are 
picked up on the field by the regimental stretcher- 
bearers, who are generally the band, trained in 
First Aid and Stretcher Drill. They take them 
to the Bearer Section of the Field Ambulance 
(which used to be called Field Hospital), who 
take them to the Tent Section of the same Field 
Ambulance, who have been getting the Dressing 
Station ready with sterilisers, &c, while the 
Bearer Section are fetching them from the 
regimental stretcher-bearers. They are all drilled 
to get this ready in twenty minutes in tents, 
but it takes longer in farmhouses. The Field 
Ambulance then takes them in ambulance 
waggons (with lying down and sitting accom- 
modation) to the Clearing Hospital, with beds, 
and returns empty to the Dressing Station. 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 9 

From the Clearing Hospital they go on to the 
Stationary Hospital — 200 beds — which is on a 
railway, and finally in hospital trains to the 
General Hospital, their last stopping-place before 
they get shipped off to Netley and all the English 
hospitals. The General Hospitals are the only 
ones at present to carry Sisters ; 500 beds is 
the minimum, and they are capable of expanding 
indefinitely. 

There is a large staff of harassed-looking land- 
ing officers here, with A.M.L.O. on a white arm- 
band for the medical people ; a great many 
troopships are coming from Southampton ; you 
hear them booing their signals in the harbour all 
night and day. 

I've had my first letter from England, from a 

patient at . The Field Service post-card is 

quite good as a means of communication, but 
frightfully tantalising from our point of view. 

We had a very good night on our mattresses, 
but it was rather cold towards morning with only 
one rug. 

They have a Carter- Paterson motor- van for 
the Military mail-cart at the M.P.O., and two 
Tommies sit by a packing-case with a slit in 
the lid for the letter-box. 

Saturday, August 22nd. — The worst has hap- 
pened. No. — is to stop at Havre; in camp 



io DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

three miles out. So No. — and No. — are both 
staying here. 

Meanwhile to-day Nos. — , — , and — have all 
arrived ; 130 more Sisters besides the 86 already 
here are packed into this Convent, camping out 
in dining-halls and schoolrooms and passages. 
The big Chapel below and the wee Chapel on this 
floor seem to be the only unoccupied places now. 

Havre is a big base for the France part of our 
Expeditionary Force. Troopships are arriving 
every day, and every fighting man is being 
hurried up to the Front, and they cannot block 
the lines and trains with all these big hospitals 
yet. 

The news from the Front looks bad to-day — 
Namur under heavy fire, and the Germans press- 
ing on Antwerp, and the French chased out of 
Lorraine. 

Everybody is hoping it doesn't mean staying 
here permanently, but you never know your luck. 
It all depends what happens farther up, and of 
course one might have the luck to be added to a 
hospital farther up to fill up casualties among 
Sisters or if more were wanted. 

The base hospitals, of course, are always filling 
up from up country with men who may be able 
to return to duty, and acute or hopeless cases 
who have to be got well enough for a hospital 
ship for home. 



WAITING FOR ORDERS n 

There is to be a Requiem Mass to-morrow at 
Notre Dame for those who have been killed in 
the war, and the whole nave and choir is re- 
served for officials and Red Cross people. It is 
a most beautiful church, now hung all over with 
the four flags of the Allies. An old woman in the 
church this morning asked us if we were going to 
the Blesses, and clasped our hands and blessed us 
and wept. She must have had some sons in the 
army. 

We are simply longing to get to work, whether 
here or anywhere else ; it is ioo per cent better 
in this interesting old town doing for ourselves 
in the Convent than waiting in the stuffy 
hotel at Dublin. There is any amount to see 
— miles of our Transport going through the 
town with burly old shaggy English farm-horses, 
taken straight from the harvest, pulling the 
carts ; French Artillery Reservists being taught 
to work the guns ; French soldiers passing 
through ; and our R.E. Motor-cyclists scudding 
about. And one can practise talking, under- 
standing, and reading French. It is surprising 
how few of the 216 Sisters here seem to know a 
word of French. I am looked upon as an expert, 
and you know what my French is like ! A sick 
officer sitting out in the court below has got a 
small French boy by him who is teaching him 
French with a map, a ' Matin,' and a dictionary. 



12 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

A great deal of nodding and shaking of heads is 
going on. 

Sunday, August zyd. — The same dazzling blue 
sky, boiling sun, and sharp shadows that one 
seldom sees in England for long together ; we've 
had it for days. 

We've had yesterday's London papers to read 
to-day ; they quote in a rather literal translation 
from their Paris Correspondent word for word 
what we read in the Paris papers yesterday. I 
wonder what the English hospital people in 
Brussels are doing in the German occupation, — 
pretty hard times for them, I expect. Two that 
I know are there doing civilian work, and Lord 
Rothschild has got a lot of English nurses there. 

This morning I went to the great Requiem 
Mass at Notre Dame. It was packed to burst- 
ing with people standing, but we were im- 
mediately shown to good places. The Abbe 
preached a very fine war sermon, quite easy to 
understand. There was a great deal of weeping 
on all sides. When the service was finished the 
big organ suddenly struck up " God Save the 
King " ; it gave one such a thrill. And then a 
long procession of officers filed out, our generals 
with three rows of ribbons leading, and the 
French following. 

This is said to be our biggest base, and that we 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 13 

shall get some very good work. Of course, once 
we get the wounded in it doesn't make any differ- 
ence where you are. 

Monday, August 24th. — The news looks bad to- 
day ; people say it is tres serieux, ce moment-ci ; 
but there is a cheering article in Saturday's 
* Times ' about it all. The news is posted up 
at the Prefeture (dense crowd always) several 
times a day, and we get many editions of the 
papers as we go through the day. 

Tuesday, August 25th. — We bide here. No. — 
G.H., which is also here, has been chopped in 
half, and divided between us and No. — General, 
the permanent Base Hospital already established 
here. So we shall be two base hospitals, each 
with 750 beds. 

The place is full of rumours of all sorts of 
horrors, — that the Germans have landed in Scot- 
land, that they are driving the Allies back on all 
sides, and that the casualties are in thousands. 
So far there are 200 sick, minor cases, at No. — , 
but no wounded except two Germans. We have 
no beds open yet ; the hospital is still being got 
on with ; our site is said to be on a swamp 
between a Remount Camp and a Veterinary 
Camp, so we shall do well in horse-flies. 

It is a fortnight to-morrow since we mobilised, 



14 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

and we have had no work yet except our own 
fatigue duty in the Convent ; it was our turn 
this morning, and I scrubbed the lavatories out 
with creosol. 

I've had an interesting day to-day, motoring 
round with the CO. of No. — and the No. — 
Matron. We visited each of their three palatial 
buildings in turn, huge wards of 60 beds each, 
in ball-rooms, and a central camp of 500 on a 
hill outside. They have their work cut out 
having it so divided up, but they are running it 
magnificently. 

Wednesday, August 26th. — Very ominous leading 
articles in the French papers to-day bidding every 
one to remember that there is no need to give up 
hope of complete success in the end ! There is a 
great deal about the French and English heavy 
losses, but where are the wounded being sent ? 
It is absolutely maddening sitting here still with 
no work yet, when there must be so much to be 
done ; but I suppose it will come to us in time, 
as it is easier to move the men to the hospitals 
than the hospitals to the men, or they wouldn't 
have put 1500 beds here. 

The street children here have a charming way 
of running up to every strolling Tommy, Officer, 
or Sister, seizing their hand, and saying, " Good- 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 15 

night," and saluting; one reached up to pat my 
shoulder. 

No. — G.H., which left here yesterday for 
Abbeville, between Rouen and the mouth of the 
Somme, came back again to-day. They were 
met by a telegram at Rouen at midnight, telling 
them to return to Havre, as it was not safe to 
go on. They are of course frightfully sick. 

French wounded have been coming in all day. 
And we are not yet in camp. Our site is said to 
be a fearful swamp, so to-day, which has been 
soaking wet, will be a good test for it. 

It is so wet to-night that we are going to have 
cocoa and bread-and-butter on the floor, instead 
of trailing down to the hotel for dinner. Miss 

, who is the third in our room, regales us 

with really thrilling stories of her adventures in 
S. A. She was mentioned in despatches, and 
reported dead. 

Thursday, August zyth. — Bright sun to-day, so 
I hope the Army is drying itself. All sorts of 
rumours as usual— that our wounded are still 
on the field, being shot by the Germans, that 
700 are coming to Havre to-day, that 700 have 
been taken in at Rouen, where we have three 
G.H.'s — that last is the truest story. We went 
this afternoon to see over the Hospital Ship here, 



16 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

waiting for wounded to take back to Netley. It is 
beautifully fitted, and even has hot-water bottles 
ready in the beds, but no wounded. It is much 
smaller than the H.S. Dunera I came home in 
from South Africa. Still no sign of No. — being 
ready, which is not surprising, as the hay had to 
be cut and the place drained more or less. The 
French and English officers here all sit at dif- 
ferent tables, and don't hobnob much. Six 
officers of the Royal Flying Corps are here, 
double - breasted tunics and two spread - eagle 
wings on left breast. Troops are still arriving 
at the docks, which are the biggest I have ever 
seen. The men on the trams give us back our 
sous, as we are " Militaires." 

Friday, August 28th. — Hot and brilliant. Eleven 
fugitive Sisters of No. — have come back to-day 
from Amiens, and the others are either hung up 
somewhere or on the way. The story is that 
Uhlans were arriving in the town, and that it 
wasn't safe for women ; I don't know if the 
hospital were receiving wounded or not. Yes, 
they were. Another rumour to-day says that 
No. — Field Ambulance has been wiped out by 
a bomb from an aeroplane. Another rumour 
says that one regiment has five men left, and 
another one man — but most of these stories 
turn out myths in time. 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 17 

Wounded are being taken in at No. — , and are 
being shipped home from there the same day. 

This morning Matron took two of us out to our 
Hospital camp, three miles along the Harfleur 
road. The tram threaded its way through thou- 
sands of our troops, who arrived this morning, 
and through a regiment of French Sappers. 
There were Seaforths (with khaki petticoats over 
the kilt), R. Irish Rifles, R.B. Gloucesters, Con- 
naughts, and some D.G.'s and Lancers. They 
were all heavily loaded up with kit and rifles 
(sometimes a proud little I;rench boy would carry 
these for them), marching well, but perspiring in 
rivers. It was a good sight, and the contrast 
between the khaki and the red trousers and caps 
and blue coats of the French was very striking. 
We went nearly to Harfleur (where Henry V. 
landed before Agincourt), and then walked back 
towards No. — Camp, along a beautiful straight 
avenue with poplars meeting over the top. About 
20 motors full of Belgian officers passed us. 

The camp is getting on well. All the Hospital 
tents are pitched, and all the quarters except the 
Sisters and the big store tents for the Adminis- 
tration block are ready. The operating theatre 
tent is to have a concrete floor and is not ready. 

The ground is the worst part. It is a very 
boggy hay-field, and in wet weather like Wed- 
nesday and Tuesday they say it is a swamp. We 

B 



18 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

are all to have our skirts and aprons very short 
and to be well provided with gum-boots. We 
shall be two in a bell-tent, or dozens in a big 
store tent, uncertain yet which, and we are to 
have a bath tent. I am to be surgical. 

While waiting for the tram on the way back, 
on a hot, white road, we made friends with a 
French soldier, who stopped a little motor-lorry, 
already crammed with men and some sort of 
casks, and made them take us on. I sat on the 
floor, with my feet on the step, and we whizzed 
back into Havre in great style. There is no 
speed limit, and it was a lovely joy-ride ! 

We are seeing the ' Times ' a few days late and 
fairly regularly. Have not seen any list of the 
Charleroi casualties yet. It all seems to be com- 
ing much nearer now. The line is very much 
taken up with ammunition trains. 

To show that there is a good deal going on, 
though we've as yet had no work, I'm only 
half through my yd. book, and we left home a 
fortnight and two days ago. If you do have a 
chance to read anything but newspapers, you 
can't keep your mind on it. 

We are getting quite used to a life shorn of 
most of its trappings, except for the two hotel 
meals a day. 

My mattress, on the floor along the very low 
large window, with two rugs and cushions, and a 



WAITING FOR ORDERS ig 

holdall for a bolster, is as comfortable as any 
bed, and you don't miss sheets after a day or 
two. There is one bathroom for 120 or more 
people, but I get a cold bath every morning 

early. S gets our early morning tea, and 

M. sweeps our room, and I wash up and roll up 
the beds. We are still away from our boxes, and 
have a change of some clothes and not others. 
I have to wash my vest overnight when I want a 
clean one and put it on in the morning. We 
have slung a clothes-line across our room. The 
view is absolutely glorious. 

Saturday, August 2gth. — A grilling day. It is 
very difficult, this waiting. No. — had 450 
wounded in yesterday, and they were whisked off 
on the hospital ship in the evening. It doesn't 
look as if there would be anything for us to do 
for weeks. 

Sunday, August 30th. — Orders to-day for the 
whole Base at Havre to pack itself up and em- 
bark at a moment's notice. So No. — , No. — , 
No. — , and No. — G.H., who are all here, and a 
Royal Flying Corps unit, the Post Office, and the 
Staff, and every blessed British unit, are all pack- 
ing up for dear life. We may be going home, 
and we may be going to Brittany, to Cherbourg, 
or to Brest, or to Berlin, 




20 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Monday, August 31st. — We all got up at 5.30 to 
be ready, but I daresay we shan't move to-day. 
Yesterday we had two starved, exhausted, fugitive 
(from Amiens) No. — Sisters in to tea on our 
floor, and heard their stories. The last seventeen 
of them fled with the wounded. A train of cattle- 
trucks came in at Rouen with all the wounded as 
they were picked up without a spot of dressing on 
any of their wounds, which were septic and full 
of straw and dirt. The matron, M.O., and some 
of them got hold of some dressings and went 
round doing what they could in the time, and 
others fed them. Then the No. — got their 
Amiens wounded into cattle-trucks on mattresses, 
with Convent pillows, and had a twenty hours' 
journey with them in frightful smells and dirt. 
Our visitor had five badly-wounded officers, one 
shot through the lungs and hip, and all full of 
bullets and spunk. They were magnificent, and 
asked riddles and whistled, and the men were the 
same. They'd been travelling already for two 
days. An orderly fell out of the train and was 
badly injured, and died next morning. 

It is very interesting to read on Monday the 
* Times' Military Correspondent's forecast of 
Friday. He seems to know so exactly the 
different lines of defence of the Allies, and ex- 
actly where the Germans will try and break 
through. But he has never found out that 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 21 

Havre has been a base for over a fortnight. He 
speaks of Havre or Cherbourg as a possible base 
to fall back upon, if fortified against long-distance 
artillery firing, which we are not. And now we 
are abandoning Havre ! 

Tuesday, September 1st. — No orders yet, so we 
are still waiting, packed up. 

Went with one of the regulars to-day to see 
the big hospital ship Asturias with 3000 beds, 
and also to see Sister at the No. — Mari- 
time Hospital. They've been very busy there 

dressing the wounded for the ship. Colonel 

brought us back in his motor, and met the 
Consul - General on the way, who told us K. 
came through to-day off a cruiser, and was taken 
on to Paris in a motor. Smiles of relief from 
every one. One of the Sisters had heard from 
her mother in Scotland that she had five Russian 
officers billeted ! They are said to be on their 
way through from Archangel. 

Troopships full of French and English troops 
are leaving Havre every day, for Belgium. 

Wouldn't you like to be under the table when 
K. and J. and F. are poring over their maps to- 
night ? 

Wednesday, September 2nd. — We are leaving to- 
morrow, on a hospital ship, possibly for Nantes 



22 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

K. has given orders for every one to be cleared 
out of Havre by to-morrow. 

We found some men invalided from the Front 
lying outside the station last night waiting for an 
ambulance, mostly reservists called up ; they'd 
had a hot time, but were full of grit. 

The men from Mons told us " it wasn't fight- 
ing — it was murder." They said the burning hot 
sun was one of the worst parts. They said " the 
officers was grand " ; many regiments seem to 
have hardly any officers left. They all say that 
the S. A. War was a picnic compared to this 
German artillery onslaught and their packed 
masses continually filling up. 

There is a darling little chapel on this floor, 
beautifully kept, just as the nuns left it, where 
one can say one's prayers. And there is also a 
lovely church, where they have Mass at 8 every 
morning. 

You can imagine how hard it has been to keep 
off grumbling at not getting any work all this 
time; it is one of the worst of fortunes of war. 
It seems as if most of the " dangerously " and 
many of the " seriously " wounded must have died 
pretty soon, or have not been picked up. The 
cases that do come down are most of them 
slight. Some of the worst must be in hospital at 
Rouen. 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 23 

Friday, September qth. R.M.S.P. Asturias, 
Havre. — At last we are uprooted from that con- 
vent up the hot hill and are on an enormous 
hospital ship, who in times of peace goes to New 
York and Brazil and the Argentine. There are 
240 Sisters on her, one or two M.O.'s, and all the 
No. — equipment. She is like a great white 
town ; you can walk for miles on her decks ; she 
is the biggest I have ever been on ; we are in the 
cabins, and the wards and operating-theatres are 
all equipped for patients, but at the moment she 
is being used as a transport for us. We are sup- 
posed to be going to St Nazaire, the port for 
Nantes. They can't possibly be going to dump 
No. — , No. — , No. — , No. — , and No. — all 
down at the new base, so I suppose one or two 
of the hospitals will be sent up the new lines of 
communication. 

Poor Havre is very desolate. All the flags 
came down when the British left, and the people 
looked very sad. Paris refugees are crowding 
in, and sleeping on the floors of the hotels, and 
camping out in their motor-cars, and many cross- 
ing to England. There is a Proclamation up 
all over the town telling the people to pull them- 
selves together whatever happens, and to forget 
everything that is not La Patrie. Also another 
about the military necessity for the Government 



24 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

to leave Paris, and that they mustn't be afraid of 
anything that may happen, because we shall win 
in the end, &c, &c. 

We don't start till to - morrow, I believe ; 
meanwhile, cleanliness and privacy and sheets, 
and cool, quick meals and sea breeze, are cheering 
after the grime and the pigging and the squash 
and the awful heat of the last fortnight. I have 
picked up a bad cold from the foul dust-heaps and 
drainless condition of the smelly Havre streets, 
but it will soon disappear now. 

I wish I could tell you the extraordinary beauty 
of yesterday evening from the ship. There was 
a flaming sunset below a pale-green sky, and then 
the thousand lights of the ships and the town 
came out reflected in the water, and then a 
brilliant moon. A big American cruiser was 
alongside of us. 

We shall get no more letters till we land. I 
have a " State-room " all to myself on the top 
deck ; the waiters and stewards are English, very 
polite to us, and the crew are mostly West African 
negroes, who talk good English. The ship is 
very becoming to the white, grey, and red of our 
uniforms, or else our uniforms are becoming to 
the ship, and her many decks ; but why, oh why, 
are we not all in hospital somewhere ? 

Saturday, September $th. — Had a perfect voyage 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 25 

— getting in to Nantes to-night — after that no one 
knows. Shouldn't be surprised if we are sent 
home. 

La Baule, near Nantes. 

Monday, September yth. — The latest wave of this 
erratic sea has tossed us up on to two little 
French seaside places north of St Nazaire, the 
port of Nantes. There are over 500 Sisters at 
the two places in hotels. No. — and No. — and 
part of — are at La Baule in one enormous new 
hotel, which has been taken over for the French 
wounded on the bottom floor; the rest was 
empty till we came. We are in palatial rooms 
with balconies overlooking the sea, and have 
large bathrooms opening out of our rooms ; it is 
rather like the Riffel in the middle of a forest 
of pines, and the sea immediately in front. The 
expense of it all must be colossal ! Every one is 
too sick at the state of affairs to enjoy it at all ; 
some bathe, and you can sit about in the pines or 
on the sands. We have had no letters since we 
left Havre last Thursday, and no news of the 
war. We took till Sunday morning to reach St 
Nazaire, and at midday were stuffed into a little 
dirty train for this place. I'm thankful we didn't 
have to get out at Pornichet, the station before 
this, where are Nos. — , — , — , — , and — . 

The Sisters of No. — - who had to leave their 



26 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

hospital at handed their sick officers and 

men over to the French hospital, much to their 
disgust. The officers especially have a horror of 
the elegant ways of the French nurses, who make 
one water do for washing them all round ! 

Tuesday, September 8th. — Orders came last night 
to each Matron to provide three or five Sisters 
who can talk French for duty up country with a 
Stationary Hospital, so M. and I are put down 
with two Regulars and another Reserve. It is 
probably too much luck and won't come off. 
The duties will be " very strenuous," both for 
night and day duty, and we are to carry very 
little kit. The wire may come at any time. So 

this morning M. and I and Miss J , our 

Senior Regular, and very nice indeed, got into the 
train for St Nazaire to see about our baggage, 
and had an adventurous morning. The place 
was swarming with troops of all sorts. The 
6th Division was being sent up to the Front 
to-day, and no medical units could get hold of 
any transport for storing all their thousands of 
tons of stuff. One of the minor errors has been 
sending the 6oo Sisters out with 6oo trunks, 6oo 
holdalls, and 6oo kit-bags ! ! The Sisters' baggage 
is a byword now, and we could have done with 
only one of the three things or i^. We have 
been out nearly a month now and have not been 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 27 

near our boxes ; some other hospitals have lost 
all theirs, or had them smashed up. We at last 
traced our No. — people and found them en- 
camped on the wharf among the stuff, 1 trying to 
get it stored with only one motor transport lent 
them by the Flying Corps. They were very nice 
to us, offered us lunch on packing-cases, and 

Major cleaned my skirt with petrol for 

me ! 

They sorted out the five kit-bags and boxes for 
us from the rest, as we have to go in to-morrow 
and repack for duty, — only sleeping kit and uni- 
form to be taken, and a change of underclothing. 
They said we'd have to make our own trans- 
port arrangements, as the 6th Division had taken 
up everything. So in the town we saw an empty 
dray outside a public-house, and after investi- 
gating inside two pubs we unearthed a fat man, 
who took us to a wine merchant's yard, and he 
produced a huge dray, which he handed over to 
us ! We lent it to the Matron of No. — , and we 
have commandeered the brewer for No. — 's 
to-morrow. Then we met a large French motor 
ambulance without a French owner, with 
"Havre" on it, which we knew, and sent 

Miss in it to the Asturias to try and collar 

it for us to-morrow. She did. 

There were a lot of Cavalry already mounted 

1 Each hospital contains 78 tons of tents, furniture, stores, &c. 



28 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

just starting, and Welsh Fusiliers, and Argyll and 
Sutherlands, and swarms more. We had another 
invitation to a packing-case lunch from three 
other M.O.'s at another wharf, but couldn't stop. 
We saw three German officers led through the 
crowd at the wharf. The French crowd booed 
and groaned and yelled " Les Assassins " at them. 
The Tommies were quite quiet. They looked 
white and bored. We also saw 86 men (German 
prisoners) in a shed on the wharf. Some one 
who'd been talking to the German officers told 
us they were quite cheerful and absolutely certain 
Germany is going to win ! 

Wednesday, September gth. — It is a month to- 
day since I left home, and seems like six, and 
no work yet. Isn't it absolutely rotten ? A big 
storm last night, and the Bay of Biscay tumbling 
about like fun to-day : bright and sunny again 
now. The French infants, boys and girls up to 
any age, are all dressed in navy knickers and 
jerseys and look so jolly. Matron has gone into 
St Nazaire to-day to get all the whole boiling 
of our baggage out here to repack. P'raps she'll 
bring some news or some letters, or, best of all, 
some orders. 

This is a lovely spot. I'm writing on our 
balcony at the Riffelalp, above the tops of the 
pines, and straight over the sea. Three Padres 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 29 

are stranded at Pornichet — two were troopers in 
the S. A. War, and they do duty for us. The 
window of the glass lounge where we have ser- 
vices blew in with a crash this morning, right 
on the top of them, and it took some time to 
sort things out, but eventually they went on, in 
the middle of the sentence they stopped at. 

A French rag this morning had some cheering 
telegrams about the Allies — that left, centre, and 
right were all more than holding their own, even 
if the enemy is rather near Paris. What about 
the Russians who came through England ? We've 
heard of trains passing through Oxford with all 
the blinds down. 

Thursday, September 10th. — Dazzling day. War 
news, " L'ennemie se replie devant Parm6e 
anglaise," and that " Nos allies anglais pour- 
suivent leur offensive dans la direction de la 
Marne." — All good so far. No letters yet. 

Friday, September nth. — It is said to-day that 
No. — is to open at Nantes immediately. That 
will mean, at the earliest, in a fortnight, possibly 
much longer. We five French speakers are again 
told to stand by for special orders, but I know 
it won't come off. 

At early service yesterday among the Interces- 
sions was one for patience in this time of trial 



30 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

waiting for our proper work. Never was there 
a more needful Intercession. 

Some of us explored the salt-marshes behind this 
belt of pines yesterday, up to the farms and to a 
little old church on the other side ; it was open, and 
had a little ship hanging over the chancel. The 
salt-marshes are intersected by seawalls — with sea 
pinks and sea lavender — that you walk along, and 
there are masses of blackberries round the farms. 

There are rumours that all the hospitals will 
be getting to work soon, but I don't believe it. 
No. — has lost all its tent-poles, and a lot of its 
equipment in the move from Havre. I believe 
the missing stuff is supposed to be on its way 
to Jersey in the Welshman with the German 
prisoners. 

Saturday, September 12th. — Rien a dire. Tous 
les jours meme chose — on attend des ordres, ce 
qui ne viennent jamais. 

Sunday, September 13th. — The hospitals seem to 
be showing faint signs of moving. No. — has 
gone to Versailles, and No. — to Nantes. No. — 
would have gone to Versailles if they hadn't had 
the bad luck to lose their tent-poles in the 
Welshman, and their pay-sheets and a few other 
important items. 

Had to play the hymns at three services to-day 



WAITING FOR ORDERS 31 

without a hymn-book ! Luckily I scratched up 
370, 197, 193, 176, and 285, and God Save the 
King, out of my head, but " We are but little 
children weak" is the only other I can do, except 
"Peace, Perfect Peace"! A fine sermon by an 
exceptionally good Padre, mainly on Patience 
and Preparation ! 

Sunday Evening, September 13th, La Baule, Nantes. 
— Orders at last. M. and I, an Army Sister, 
and two Army Staff Nurses are to go to Le Mans ; 
what for, remains to be seen ; anyway, it will be 
work. It seems too good to be by any possibility 
true. We may be for Railway Station duty, 
feeding and dressings in trains or for a Stationary 
Hospital, or anything, or to join No. 5 General at 
Le Mans. 

Monday, September 14th, Angers, 8 p.m. — in the 
train. — We five got into the train at La Baule 
with kit-bags and holdalls, with the farewells of 
Matron and our friends, at 9.30 this morning. We 
are still in the same train, and shall not reach 
Le Mans till 11 p.m. Then what ? Perhaps 
Station Duty, perhaps Hospital. There is said 
to be any amount of work at Le Mans. We 
have an R.H.A. Battery on this train with guns, 
horses, five officers, and trucks full of shouting 
and yelling men all very fit, straight from home. 



32 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

One big officer said savagely, " The first man 
not carrying out orders will be sent down to 
the base," to one of his juniors, as the worst 
threat. The spirits of the men are irrepressible. 
The French people rush up wherever we stop 
(which is extremely often and long) and give 
them grapes and pears and cigarettes. We have 
had cider, coffee, fruit, chocolate, and biscuits- 
and-cheese at intervals. It is difficult to get 
anything, because no one, French or English, 
ever seems to know when the train is going on. 

We have been reading in ' The Times ' of 
September 3, 4, 5, and 7, all day, and re-reading 
last night's mail from home. 

What a marvellous spirit has been growing in 
all ranks of the Army (and Navy) these last dozen 
years, to show as it is doing now. And the 
technical perfection of all one saw at the Military 
Tournament this year must have meant a good 
deal — for this War. 

(We are still shunting madly in and out of 
Angers.) 



II. 

Le Mans 

WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 
September 15, 1914, to October 11, 1914 



"No easy hopes or lies 
Shall bring- us to our goal, 
But iron sacrifice 
Of body, will, and soul. 
There is but one task for all — 
For each one life to give, 
Who stands if freedom fall? 
Who dies if England live ? " 

— Rudyard Kipling. 



II. 

Le Mans. 

WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE. 

September 15, 1914, to October 11, 1914. 

Station duty — On train duty — Orders again — Waiting to 
go— Still at Le Mans — No. — Stationary Hospital — 
Off at last — The Swindon of France. 

Tuesday, September 15th. — The train managed to 
reach Le Mans at 1 a.m. this morning, and kindly 
shunted into a siding in the station till 6.30 A.M., 
so we got out our blankets and had a bit of a 
sleep. At 7 a motor ambulance took us up to 
No. — Stationary Hospital, which is a rather 
grimy Bishop's Palace, pretty full and busy. 
The Sisters there gave us tea and biscuits, and 
we were then sorted out by the Senior Matron, 
and billeted singly. I'm in a nice little house 
with a garden with an old French lady who 
hasn't a word of English, and fell on my neck 
when she found I could understand her, and 



36 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

patter glibly and atrociously back. My little 
room has a big window over the garden, and will, 
I suppose, be my headquarters for the present in 
between train and station duty, which I believe 
is to be our lot. We go to a rather dim cafe for 
meals, and shall then learn what the duty is to 
be. It is yet a long time coming. We haven't 
had a meal since the day before yesterday, so I 
shall be glad when 12 o'clock comes. Now for 
a wash. 

Wednesday, September 16th. — Still here : only 
four of the twenty-five (five sets of five) who 
formed our unit have been found jobs so far: 
two are taking a train of sick down to St Nazaire, 
and two have joined No. — Stationary Hospital 
in the town. We still await orders ! This is 
a first-class War for awaiting orders for some 
of us. 

Yesterday it poured all day. We explored the 
Cathedral, which is absolutely beautiful, perched 
high up over an open space — now crowded with 
transport and motor ambulances. We made tea 
in my quarters, and then explored the town ; 
narrow streets thronged with Tommies as 
usual. 

We have lunch at eleven and dinner at seven, 
at a dingy little inn through a smelly back yard ; 
there is not much to eat, and you fill up with 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 37 

rather nasty bread and unripe pears, and drink 
a sort of flat cider, as the water is not good. 

To-day it is sunny again. I have just been 
to High Mass (Choral), and taken photos of the 
Cathedral and the Market below, where I got 
four ripe peaches for i^d. 

Writing in the garden of Mme. Bontevin, my 
landlady. 

There is any amount of work here at the 
Bishop's Palace ; more than they can get through 
on night duty with bad cases, and another Jesuit 
College has been opened as No. — Stationary. 
Went up to No. — S. this afternoon where 

F has been sent, to see her ; she asked 

me to go out and buy cakes for six wounded 
officers. They seemed highly pleased with them ; 
they are on beds, the men on stretchers; all in 
holland sheets and brown blankets ; only bare 
necessaries, as the Stationary Hospitals have to 
be very mobile : stretchers make very decent 
beds, but they are difficult for nursing. 

They have had a good many deaths, surgical 
and medical, at L'Eveche ; they have pneumonias, 
and paralysis, and septic wounds, and an officer 
shot through the head, with a temperature of 106 
and paralysis ; there is a civil surgeon with a leg 
for amputation at No. — Stationary. 

Friday, September iSth. — Meme chose. We go 



38 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

up to the Hospital and ask for orders, and to- 
night we were both told to get into ward uniform 
in the morning, and wait there in case a job 
turns up. I've just come to-night from No. — 

Station where F is, to take her some things 

she asked me to get for her officers. 

They have been busy at the station to-day 
doing dressings on the trains. A lot have come 
down from this fighting on the Marne. 

Yesterday I think one touched the bottom of 
this waiting business. The food at the dingy 
inn has derange my inside, and I lay down all 
day yesterday. The Sergeant at the Dispensary 
prescribed lead and opium pills for me when 
I asked for chlorodyne, as he said he'd just 
cured a General with the same complaint — from 
the sour bread, he said. Fanny, the fat cook 
here, and Isabel the maid, were overcome with 
anxiety over my troubles, and fell over each other 
with hot bottles, and drinks, and advice. They 
are perfect angels. Madame Bontevin pays me 
a state call once a day ; she has to have all the 
windows shut, and we sit close and converse with 
animation. Flowery French compliments simply 
fly between us. We often have to help the 
Tommies out with their shopping ; their attempts 
to buy Beecham's Pills are the funniest. 

This afternoon I found ' The Times ' of September 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 



39 



15th (Tuesday of this week) in a shop and had 
a happy time with it. It referred, in a French- 
man's letter, to a sunset at Havre on an evening 
that he would never forget — nor shall I — with an 
American cruiser and a troopship going out. 
(See page 24 of this effusion.) 

Saturday, September igth. — It seems that we five 
No. — s who came up last Monday are being 
kept to staff another Stationary Hospital farther 
up, when it is ready ; at least that is what it looks 
like from sundry rumours — if so — good enough. 

We have been all day in caps and aprons at 
L'Evech£, marking linen and waiting for orders 
on the big staircase. I've also been over both 
hospitals. The bad cases all seem to be dropped 
here off the trains ; there are some awful mouth, 
jaw, head, leg, and spine cases, who can't recover, 
or will only be crippled wrecks. You can't 
realise that it has all been done on purpose, and 
that none of them are accidents or surgical 
diseases. And they seem all to take it as a 
matter of course ; the bad ones who are con- 
scious don't speak, and the better ones are all 
jolly and smiling, and ready " to have another 
smack." One little room had two wounded 
German prisoners, with an armed guard. One 
who was shot through the spine died while I was 



40 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

there — his orderly and the Sister were with him. 
The other is a spy — nearly well — who has to be 
very carefully watched. 

They are all a long time between the field 
and the Hospital. One told me he was wounded 
on Tuesday — was one day in a hospital, and then 
travelling till to - day, Saturday. No wonder 
their wounds are full of straw and grass. 
(Haven't heard of any more tetanus.) Most 
haven't had their clothes off, or washed, for 
three weeks, except face and hands. 

No war news to-day, except that the Germans 
are well fortified and entrenched in their positions 
N. of Rheims. 

Sunday, September 20th. — Began with early ser- 
vice at the Jesuit School Hospital at 6.30, and 
the rest of the day one will never forget. The 
fighting for these concrete entrenched positions 
of the Germans behind Rheims has been so 
terrific since last Sunday that the number of 
casualties has been enormous. Three trains full 
of wounded, numbering altogether 1175 cases, 
have been dressed at the station to-day ; we were 
sent down at 11 this morning. The train I 
was put to had 510 cases. You boarded a cattle- 
truck, armed with a tray of dressings and a pail ; 
the men were lying on straw ; had been in trains 
for several days; most had only been dressed 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 41 

once, and many were gangrenous. If you found 
one urgently needed amputation or operation, or 
was likely to die, you called an M.O. to have 
him taken off the train for Hospital. No one 
grumbled or made any fuss. Then you joined 
the throng in the dressing-station, and for hours 
doctors of all ranks, Sisters and orderlies, grappled 
with the stream of stretchers, and limping, stag- 
gering, bearded, dirty, fagged men, and ticketed 
them off for the motor ambulances to the Hos- 
pitals, or back to the train, after dressing them. 
The platform was soon packed with stretchers 
with all the bad cases waiting patiently to be 
taken to Hospital. We cut off the silk vest 
of a dirty, brigandish - looking officer, nearly 
finished with a wound through his lung. 
The Black Watch and Camerons were almost 
unrecognisable in their rags. The staple dress- 
ing is tincture of iodine ; you don't attempt any- 
thing but swabbing with lysol, and then gauze 
dipped in iodine. They were nearly all shrapnel 
shell wounds — more ghastly than anything I 
have ever seen or smelt ; the Mauser wounds 
of the Boer War were pin-pricks compared with 
them. There was also a huge train of French 
wounded being dressed on the other side of the 
station, including lots of weird, gaily -bedecked 
Zouaves. 

There was no real confusion about the whole 



42 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

day, owing to the good organising of the No. — 
Clearing Hospital people who run it. Every man 
was fed, and dressed and sorted. They'll have a 
heavy time at the two hospitals to-night with the 
cases sent up from the trains. 

M. and I are now — 9 p.m. — in charge of a 
train of 141 (with an M.O. and two orderlies) 
for St Nazaire; we jump out at the stations and 
see to them, and the orderlies and the people on 
the stations feed them : we have the worst cases 
next to us. We may get there some time to- 
morrow morning, and when they are taken off, 
we train back, arriving probably on Wednesday 
at Le Mans. The lot on this train are the best 
leavings of to-day's trains, — a marvellously cheery 
lot, munching bread and jam and their small 
share of hot tea, and blankets have just been 
issued. We ourselves have a rug, and a ration of 
bread, tea, and jam ; we had dinner on the station. 
s~ When I think of your Red Cross practices on 
boy scouts, and the grim reality, it makes one 
wonder. And the biggest wonder of it all is 
the grit there is in them, and the price they 
are individually and unquestioningly paying for 
doing their bit in this War. 

Monday, September 21st. — In train on way back 
to Le Mans from St Nazaire. We did the 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 43 

journey in twelve hours, and arrived at 9 this 
morning, which was very good, considering the 
congestion on the line. In the middle of the 
night we pulled up alongside an immense troop 
train, taking a whole Brigade of D. of Cornwall's 
L.I. up to the front, such a contrast to our load 
coming away from the front. Our lot will be a 
long time getting to bed; the Medical Officers at 
St N. told us there were already two trains in, 
and no beds left on hospitals or ships, and 1300 
more expected to-day ; four died in one of the 
trains ; ours were pretty well, after the inde- 
scribable filth and fug of the train all night ; it 
was not an ambulance train, but trucks and 
ordinary carriages. The men say there are 
hardly any officers left in many regiments. 
There has never been this kind of rush to be 
coped with anywhere, but the Germans must 
be having worse. We had thirteen German 
prisoners tacked on to us with a guard of the 
London Scottish, the first Territorials to come 
out, bursting with health and pride and keen- 
ness. They are not in the fighting line yet, 
but are used as escorts for the G.P. among 
other jobs. One of the men on our train had 
had his shoulder laid open for six inches by a 
shell, where he couldn't see the wound. He 
asked me if it was a bullet wound ! He himself 



44 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

thought it was too large for that, and might 
be shrapnel ! He hadn't mentioned it all 
night. 

We had some dressings to be done again this 
morning, and then left them in charge of the 
M.O. and two orderlies, and went to report our- 
selves to the A.D.M.S. and get a warrant for the 
return journey. We shall get in to Le Mans 
somewhere about midnight. I'm not a bit tired, 
strange to say ; we got a few rests in the night, 
but couldn't sleep. 

Tuesday, September 22nd. — Got back to Le 
Mans at 2 a.m. — motor -ambulanced up to the 
hospital, where an orderly made lovely beds for 
us on stretchers, with brown blankets and pillows, 
in the theatre, and labelled the door " Opera- 
tion," in case any one should disturb us. At 6 
we went to our respective diggings for a wash 
and breakfast, and reported to Matron at 8. 
We have been two days and two nights in our 
clothes ; food where, when, and what one could 
get ; one wash only on a station platform at a 
tap which a sergeant kindly pressed for me while 
I washed ! one cleaning of teeth in the dark on 
the line between trucks. They have no water 
on trains or at stations, except on the engine, 
which makes tea in cans for you for the men 
when it stops. 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 45 

We are to rest to-day, to be ready for another 
train to-night if necessary. The line from the 
front to Rouen — where there are two General 
Hospitals — is cut; hence this appalling over- 
crowding at our base. When we got back this 
morning, nine of those we took off the trains 
on Sunday afternoon had died here, and one 
before he reached the hospital — three of tetanus. 
I haven't heard how many at the other hospital 
at the Jesuit school — tetanus there too. Some 
of the amputations die of septic absorption and 
shock, and you wouldn't wonder if you saw 
them. I went to the 9 o'clock Choral High 
Mass this morning at that glorious and beauti- 
ful Cathedral — all gorgeous old glass and white 
and grey stone, slender Gothic and fat Norman. 
It was very fine and comforting. 

The sick officers are frightfully pleased to see 
1 The Times,' no matter how old ; so are we. I've 
asked M. to collect their *4d. picture daily papers 
once a week for the men. 

Wednesday, September 23rd. — Have been helping 
in the wards at No. — to-day. The Sisters and 
orderlies there have all about twice what they 
can get through — the big dressings are so ap- 
palling and new cases have been coming in — 
all stretcher cases. As soon as they begin to 
recover at all they are sent down to the base to 



46 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

make room for worse ones off the trains. To- 
morrow I am on station duty again — possibly 
for another train. 

There is a rumour that three British cruisers 
have been sunk by a submarine — it can't be 
true. 

I don't see why this battle along the French 
frontier should ever come to an end, at any rate 
till both armies are exhausted, and decide to go 
to bed. The men say we can't spot their guns — 
they are too well hidden in these concrete en- 
trenchments. 

The weather is absolutely glorious all day, and 
the stars all night. Orion, with his shining body- 
guard, from Sirius to Capella, is blazing every 
morning at 4. 

Thursday, September 24th, 3 p.m. — Taking 480 
sick and wounded down to St Nazaire, with a 
junior staff nurse, one M.O., and two orderlies. 
Just been feeding them all at Angers; it is a 
stupendous business. The train is miles long — 
not corridor or ambulance; they have straw to 
lie on the floors and stretchers. The M.O. has 
been two nights in the train already on his way 
down from the front (four miles from the guns), 
and we joined on to him with a lot of hospital 
cases sent down to the base. I've been collect- 
ing the worst ones into carriages near ours all 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 47 

the way down when we stop ; but of course you 
miss a good many. Got my haversack lined with 
jaconet and filled with cut-dressings, very con- 
venient, as you have both hands free. We con- 
tinually stop at little stations, so you can get to 
a good many of them, and we get quite expert 
at clawing along the footboards ; some of the 
men, with their eyes, noses, or jaws shattered, 
are so extraordinarily good and uncomplaining. 
Got hold of a spout-feeder and some tubing at 
Angers for a boy in the Grenadier Guards, with 
a gaping hole through his mouth to his chin, 
who can't eat, and cannot otherwise drink. The 
French people bring coffee, fruit, and all sorts of 
things to them when we stop. 

We shall have to wait at St Nazaire all day, 
and come back by night to-morrow. 

One swanky Ambulance Train carries four 
permanent Sisters to the front to fetch cases 
to Le Mans and the Base. They go to Ville- 
neuve. They say the country is deserted, crops 
left to waste, houses empty, and when you get 
there no one smiles or speaks, but listens to 
the guns. The men seem to think the Germans 
have got our range, but we haven't found theirs. 
The number of casualties must be nearly into 
five figures this last battle alone; and when 
you think of the Russians, the Germans, the 
French, the Austrians, and the Belgians all 



J 




48 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

like that, the whole convulsion seems more 
meaningless than ever for civilised nations. 

This is in scraps, owing to the calls of duty. 
The beggars simply swarm out of the train at 
every stop — if they can limp or pull up by one 
arm — to get the fruit and things from the 
French. 

» 

Friday, September 25th. — In train back to Le 
Mans, 9 p.m. We landed our tired, stiff, pain- 
ful convoy at St Nazaire at 8.45 yesterday 
evening. The M.O.'s there told us our lot 
made 1800 that had come down since early 
morning ; one load of bad cases took eight 
hours to unload. The officers all seemed de- 
pressed and overworked, and they were having 
a very tight fit to get beds for them at the 
various hospitals at St Nazaire. At about 
10 p.m. the last were taken off by the motor 
ambulances, and we got some dinner on the 
station with our Civil Surgeon, who was look- 
ing forward to a night in a tent out of a 
train. 

The R.T.O. found us an empty 1st class 
carriage in the station to sleep in, and the 
sergeant found us a candle and matches and 
put us to bed, after a sketchy wash provided 
by the buffet lady. 

The din was continuous all night, so one 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 49 

didn't sleep much, but had a decent rest (and 
a flea). The sergeant called us at 6.30, and 
we had another sketchy wash, and coffee and 
rolls and jam at the buffet. Then we found 
our way to the hospital ship Carisbrook Castle. 
The Army Sister in charge was most awfully 
kind, showed us over, made the steward turn 
on hot baths for us, provided notepaper, kept 
us to lunch — the nicest meal we've seen 
for weeks ! The ship had 500 cases on board, 
and was taking 200 more — many wounded 
officers. 

A captain of the told me all his ad- 
ventures from the moment he was hit till 
now. His regiment had nine officers killed 
and twenty-seven wounded. He said they knew 
things weren't going well in that retreat, but 
they never knew how critical it was at the 
time. 

After lunch, we took our grateful leave and 
went to the A.D.M.S.'s office for our return 
warrants for the R.T.O. (I have just had to 
sign it for fourteen, as senior officer of our 
two selves and twelve A.S.C. men taking two 
trucks of stores, who have no officer with 
them !) There we heard that ten of our No. — 
Sisters were ordered to Nantes for duty by the 
4.28, so we hied back to the station to meet 
them and see them off. They were all fright- 

P 



50 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

fully glad to be on the move at last, and we 
had a great meeting. The rest are still bathing 
at La Baule and cursing their luck. 

While we were getting some coffee in the only 
patisserie in the dirty little town, seven burly 
officer boys of the Black Watch came in to buy 
cakes for the train, they said, to-night. They 
were nearly all second lieutenants, one captain, 
and were so excited at going up to the Front 
they couldn't keep still. They asked us eagerly 
if we'd had many of "our regiment" wounded, 
and how many casualties were there, and how 
was the fighting going, and how long would 
the journey take. (The nearer you get to the 
Front the longer it takes, as trains are always 
having to shunt and go round loops to make 
room for supply trains.) They didn't seem to 
have the dimmest idea what they're in for, 
bless them. They are on this train in the 
next carriage. 

The Padre told me he was the only one at 
St Nazaire for all the hospitals and all the 
troops in camp (15,000 in one camp alone). 

He had commandeered the Bishop of 
Khartoum to help him, and another bishop, 
who both happen to be here. 

We are now going to turn out the light, and 
hope for the best till they come to look at the 
warrant or turn us out to change. 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 51 

6 A.M. — At Sable at 4 a.m. we were turned 

out for two hours ; a wee open station. Mr 

and our Civil Surgeon were most awfully decent 
to us : turned a sleepy official out of a room 
for us, and at 5 came and dug us out to have 
coffee and brioches with them. Then we went 
for a sunrise walk round the village, and were 
finally dragged into their carriage, as they 
thought it was more comfortable than ours. 
Just passed a big French ambulance train full 
from Compiegne. 

At Le Mans the train broke up again, and 
everybody got out. We motor-ambulanced up 
to the Hospital with the three night Sisters 
coming off station duty. Matron wanted us to 
go to bed for the day; but we asked to come 
on after lunch, as they were busy and we 
weren't overtired. I'm realising to - night that 
I have been on the train four nights out of six, 
and bed is bliss at this moment. 

I was sent to No. — Stationary at the Jesuits' 
College to take over the officers at one o'clock. 

One was an angelic gunner boy with a septic 
leg and an undaunted smile, except when I 
dressed his leg and he said " Oh, damn ! " The 
other bad one was wounded in the shoulder. 

They kept me busy till Sister came back, 

and then I went to my beloved Cathedral (and 
vergered some Highland Tommies round it, — 



52 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

they had fits of awe and joy over it, and 
grieved over "Reems"). It is awfully hard to 
make these sick officers comfortable, with no 
sheets or pillow - cases, no air ring - cushions, 
pricky shirts, thick cups without saucers, &c. 
One longs for the medical comforts of 

I hear to-night that Miss , the Principal 

Matron on the Lines of Communication (on the 
War Establishment Staff) is here again, and may 
have a new destination for some of us details. 

The heading in ' Le Matin ' to-night is : — 

UNE LUTTE ACHARNEE 

DE LA SOMME A LA MEUSE 

LA BATAILLE REDOUBLE DE VIOLENCE 

If it redoubles de violence much longer who 
will be left ? 

Sunday, September 2jth. — My luck is in this 

time. Miss has just sent for me to tell me 

I am for permanent duty on No. — Ambulance 
Train (equipped) which goes up to the Front, 
to the nearest point on the rail to the fighting 
line. Did you ever know such luck ? There 
are four of us, one Army Sister and me and 
two juniors; we live altogether on the train. 
The train will always be pushed up as near 
the Field Hospitals as the line gets to, whether 
we drive the Germans back to Berlin or they 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 53 

drive us into the sea. It is now going to 
Braisne, a little east of Soissons, just S. of 
the Aisne, N.E. of Rheims. It is on its way 
up now, and we are to join it with our baggage 
when it stops here on the way to St Nazaire. 
We shall have two days and two nights with 
wounded, and two days and two nights to rest 
on the return empty. The work itself will be 
of the grimmest possible, as we shall have all 
the worst cases, being an equipped Hospital in 
a train. It was worth waiting five weeks to get 
this ; every man or woman stuck at the Base 
has dreams of getting to the Front, but only 
one in a hundred gets the dream fulfilled. 

There is no doubt that " the horrors of War " 
have outdone themselves by this modern per- 
fection of machinery killing, and the numbers 
involved, as they have never done before, and 
as it was known they would. The details are 
often unprintable. They have eight cases of 
tetanus at No. — Stationary, and five have died. 

All the patients at No. — have been inoculated 
against tetanus to-day. They have it in the 
French Hospitals too. 

Went to the Voluntary Evening Service for 
the troops at the theatre at 5. The Padres and 
a Union Jack and the Allies' Flags ; and a piano 
on the stage ; officers and sisters in the stalls ; 
and the rest packed tight with men : they were 



54 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

very reverent, and nearly took the roof off in 
the Hymns, Creed, and Lord's Prayer. Excel- 
lent sermon. We had the War Intercessions 
and a good prayer I didn't know, ending with 
" Strengthen us in life, and comfort us in death." 
The men looked what they were, British to the 
bone ; no one could take them for any other 
nation a mile off. Clean, straight, thin, sun- 
burnt, clear-eyed, all at their Active Service best, 
no pallid rolls of fat on their faces like the 
French. The man who preached must have 
liked talking to them in that pin - dropped 
silence and attention ; he evidently knows his 
opportunities. 

Monday, September 2&th. — There are hundreds 
of people in deep new black in this town ; what 
must it be in Berlin ? The cemetery here is 
getting full of French and British soldiers' 
graves. Those 1200 sailors from the three 
cruisers had fine clean quick deaths compared 
to what happens here. 

We have got our baggage (kit-bags and hold- 
alls) down to the station at the Red Cross 
Anglaise, and are sitting in our quarters waiting 
for the word to come that No. — train is in. 

Met Miss in her car in the town, and she 

said that it was just possible that the train might 
go down to Havre this journey, she wasn't dead 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 55 

sure it was doing this route! If so we shall be 
nicely and completely sold, as I don't know how 
we should ever join it. But I'm not going to 
believe in such bad luck as that would be till 
it happens. 

Tuesday, September 2gth. — We were sold last 
night after all. Trailed down to the station to 
await the train according to orders, and were 
then told by the A.D.M.S. that it had gone to 
Havre this journey, and couldn't be on this line 
till next week, and we could go to bed. So after 
all the embraces of Mme. and Fanny and Isabel, I 
turned up at 10.30 to ask for a bed. " Ma pauvre 
demoiselle," said fat F., hastening to let me in. 

This morning Miss came down with us 

to the A.D.M.S.'s Office to find out how we 
could join the train, and he said : " Wait till it 
comes in next week, and meanwhile go on duty 
at the Hospital." I don't mind anything as long 
as we do eventually get on to the train, and we 
are to do that, so one must possess one's soul 
in patience. I am back with the sick officers 
at No. — Stationary. 

There are rumours to-night of bad news from 
the front, and that the German Navy is emerging 
from Kiel. 

Wednesday, September 30th. — Have been doing 



56 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

the sick officers all day (or rather wounded). 
They are quite nice, but the lack of equipment 
makes twice the work. We are still having 
bright sunny days, but it is getting cold, and I 
shall be glad of warmer clothes. The food at 
the still filthy Inn in a dark outhouse through the 
back yard has improved a little ! My Madame 
(in my billet) gives me coffee and bread and butter 
(of the best) at 7, and there is a ration tin of jam, 
and I have acquired a pot of honey. 

On duty at 7.30 a.m. — At 12 or 1 we go to the 
Inn for dejeuner: meat of some sort, one vege- 
table, bread, butter, and cheese, and pears. Tea 
we provide ourselves when we can. 

At 7 or 8 we go to the Inn and have potage 
(which is warm water with a few stray onions or 
carrots in it), and tough cold meat, and some- 
times a piece of pastry (for pudding), bread, 
butter, and cheese, and a very small cup of coffee, 
and little, rather hard pears. I am very well on it 
now since they changed the bread, though pretty 
tired. 

Thursday, October 1st. — The sky in Mid France 
on October 1st is of a blue that outblues the 
bluest that June or any other month can do in 
l'Angleterre. It is cold in the early mornings 
and evenings, dazzling all day, and shining moon 
by night. 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 57 

The H.A.C. are all over the town : they do 
orderly duty at Headquarters and all the Offices ; 
they seem to be gentlemen in Tommy's kit ; fine 
big lot they are. Taking it all round, the Regular 
British Army on Active Service — from hoary, 
beribboned Generals, decorated Staff Officers of 
all ranks, other officers, and N.C.O.'s down to 
the humblest Tommy — is the politest and best- 
mannered thing I have ever met, with few excep- 
tions. Wherever you are, or go, or have to wait, 
they come and ask if they can do anything for 
you, generally with an engaging smile seize your 
hand - baggage, offer you chairs and see you 
through generally. And the men and N.C.O.'s 
are just the same, and always awfully grateful if 
you can help them out with the language in any 
way. 

This was a conversation I heard in my ward 

to-day. Brother of Captain (wounded) visits 

the amputation man, and, by way of cheering him 
up, sits down, gazes at his ugly bandaged stump 
on a pillow, and says — 

"That must be the devil." 

"Yes, it is," says the leg man. 

" Hell," says the other, and then they both 
seemed to feel better and began to talk of some- 
thing else. 

We had a funeral of an Orderly and a German 
from No. — Sta. (both tetanus). On grey trans- 



58 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

port waggons with big black horses, wreaths from 
the Orderlies, carried by a big R.A.M.C. escort 
(which, of course, escorted the German too), with 
Officers and Padre and two Sisters. 

Friday, October 2nd. — They continue to die every 
day and night at both Hospitals, though we are 
taking few new cases in now. 

I am frightfully attached to Le Mans as a place. 
The town is old and curly, and full of lovely 
corners and " Places," and views and Avenues 
and Gardens. The Cathedral grows more and 
more upon one ; I have several special spots 
where you get the most exquisite poems of colour 
and stone, where I go and browse ; it is very 
quiet and beautifully kept. 

No. — Sta. is also set in a jewel of a spot. A 
Jesuits' College, full of cloisters covered with 
vines, and lawns with silver statues, shady avenues 
and sunny gardens, long corridors and big halls 
which are the wards ; the cook-house is a camp 
under a splendid row of big chestnut trees, and 
there is of course a chapel. 

Our occupation of it is rather incongruous ; 
there is practically no furniture except the boys' 
beds, some chairs, many crucifixes and statues, 
terribly primitive sanitary arrangements and water 
supply. We have to boil our instruments and 
make their tea in the same one saucepan in the 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 59 

Officers' Ward; you do without dusters, dish- 
cloths, soap-dishes, pillow-cases, and many other 
necessities in peace time. 

My little Train-Junior has been taken off that 
job and is to rejoin her unit, so I settled down 
to a prospect of the same fate (No. — G.H. is at 
Havre again ! and has still not yet done any 
work ! so you see what I've been rescued from). 

I met Miss to-night and asked her, and she 

says I am going on the train when it comes in, so 
I breathe again. 

Tuesday, October 6th. — I am now dividing my 
time between the top floor of Tommies and five 
Germans and the Officers' Ward, where I relieve 

S. for meals and off duty. There are some 

bad dressings in the top ward. The five Germans 
are quiet, fat, and amenable, glad to exchange a 
few remarks in their own language. I haven't 
had time to try and talk to them, but will if I can ; 
two of them are very badly wounded. Some of 
the medical Tommies make the most of very small 
ailments, but the surgicals are wonderful boys. 

Wednesday, October yth. — I have been down to 
the station this evening; heard that St Nazaire 
is being given up as a base, which means that no 
more ambulance trains will come through. 

The five Germans in my ward told me this 
morning that only the Reichstag and the Kaiser 



60 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

wanted the War; that Russia began it, so 
Deutschland mussen; that Deutschland couldn't 
win against Russia, France, England, Belgium, 
and Japan ; and that there were no more men 
in Germany to replace the killed. They smiled 
peacefully at the prospect and said it was ganz gut 
to be going to England. They have fat, pink, 
ruminating, innocent, fair faces, and are very 
obedient. I made one of them scrub the floor, as 
the Orderly had a bad arm from inoculation, and 
he seemed to enjoy it. Only one is married. 

Thursday, October 8th. — There was a very pic- 
turesque and rather touching scene at No. — 
this afternoon. They had a concert in the open 
quadrangle, with vined cloisters on all four sides, 
and holy statues and crucifixes about. In the 
middle were the audience — rows of stretchers 
with contented Tommies smoking and enjoying 
it (some up in their grey-blue pyjamas), and many 
Orderlies, some Sisters and M.O.'s and French 
priests; the piano on a platform at one end. 

Friday, October gth. — My compound fractured 
femur man told me how he stopped his bullet. 
Some wounded Germans held up the white flag 
and he went to them to help them. When he 
was within seven yards, the man he was going 
to help shot him in the thigh. A Coldstream 



WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 61 

Guardsman with him then split the German's 
head open with the butt-end of his rifle. The 
wounded Tommy was eventually taken to the 
chateau of the "lidy what killed the Editor some- 
where in this country." 

Saturday, October 10th. — " Orders by Lt.-Col. 
, R.A.M.C., A.D.M.S., Advanced Base Head- 



quarters, October ioth, 1914. Sister will 

proceed to Villeneuve Triage to - day, and on 

arrival will report to Major , R.A.M.C., for 

duty on Ambulance Trains." 

So it's come at last, and I have handed over 
my officers, and am now installed by the R.T.O. 
in a 1st class carriage to myself with all my kit, 
and my lovely coat and muffler, and rug and 
cushion, after a pleasant dinner of tea, cheese, 
and ration biscuits in the Red Cross Dressing 
Room, with a kind Army Sister. 

The R.T.O. this time has given me (instead of 
12 A.S.C. men) a highly important envelope 
marked Very Urgent, to give to the Director of 
Supplies, Villeneuve, whoever he is. 

Change at Versailles in about six hours, so I 
may as well try and get some sleep. 

I was really sorry to say good-bye to my kind 
old Madame Bontevin, 22 Rue de la Motte, and 
fat Fanny, and charming Isabel, and my nice 
little room — (a heavenly bed!) — and ducky little 



62 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

gay garden, where I've lived for the last month ; 
and my beloved Cathedral, and lots of the Sisters 
I have got to know. 

Versailles, 7 a.m., Sunday, October nth. — At 3 
a.m. at Chartres an officer of a Zouave Regiment, 
in blue and gold Zouave, blue sash, crimson bags 
like petticoats, and black puttees, and his smartly 
dressed sister, came into my carriage ; both very 
nice and polite and friendly. He was 21, had 
fought in three campaigns, and been wounded 
twice; now convalescent after a wound in the 
foot a month ago — going to the depot to rejoin. 
Her husband also at the front, and another 
brother. I changed at Versailles, and was given 
tea, and a slight wash by the always hospitable 
station duty Sisters, who welcome you at every 
big station. The No. — G.H. here they belong 
to is a very fine hotel with lovely gardens, and 
they are very proud of it — close to the Palace. 

10 a.m., Juvisy, — I am now in an empty 1st 
class saloon (where I can take a long walk) 
after a long wait, with cafe au lait and an 
omelette at Juvisy, and ' The Times ' of October 
5th. 

There is a pleasing uncertainty about one's 
own share on Active Service. I haven't the 
slightest idea whether, when I get to Villeneuve 
in half an hour's time, I shall — 






WOUNDED FROM THE AISNE 63 

(a) Remain there awaiting orders either in a 
French billet, a railway carriage, or a tent ; 

(6) Be sent up to Braisne to join a train ; or 

(c) Be sent down to Havre to ditto. 

We had a man in No. — Stationary who got 
through the famous charge of the 9th Lancers 
unhurt, but came into hospital for an ingrowing 
toe nail ! 

Villeneuve, 5 p.m. — Like a blithering idiot, I was 
so interested in the Gunner's Diary of his birth- 
day " in my hole" that I passed Villeneuve 
Triage, and got out the station after ! Had to 
wait 1*4 hours for a train back, and got here 
eventually at 12. Collared four polite London 
Scottish to carry my baggage, and found the 
Sister in charge of Train Ambulance people. 

I wish I could describe this extraordinary place. 
It is the Swindon of France ; a huge wilderness 
of railway lines, trains, and enormous hangars, 
now used as camps and hospitals. Sister B. is 
encamped in a shut-off corner of one of these 
sheds surrounded by London Scottish cooking 
and making tea in little groups ; they swarm 
here. I sleep to-night in the same small bed 
in an empty cottage with a Sister I've never 
seen before. We meal at a Convent French 
Hospital. I delivered my " Very Urgent " en- 
velope to the R.T.O. for the Director of Supplies, 
and reported to Major , and after lunch had 



64 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

an hour's sleep on The Bed. There are rows of 
enterics on stretchers in khaki in this shed, 
waiting for motor ambulances to take them to 
Versailles No. — G.H., being nursed here mean- 
while. There are also British prisoners (de- 
faulters) penned in in another corner, and French 
troops at the other end ! 



III. 

On No. — Ambulance Train (i) 

FIRST EXPERIENCES 
October 13, 19 14, to October 19, 1914 



E 



In lonely watches, night by night 
Great visions burst upon my sight, 
For down the stretches of the sky 
The hosts of dead go marching by. 

Dear Christ, who reignst above the flood 
Of human tears and human blood, 
A weary road these men have trod : 
O house them in the home of God." 






III. 

On No. — Ambulance Train (i). 

FIRST EXPERIENCES. 
October 13, 1914, to October 19, 1914. 

Ambulance Train — Under fire — Tales of the Retreat 
— Life on the Train. 

Tuesday, October 13th. — At last I am on the train, 
and have jnst unpacked. There is an Army 

Sister and two Reserve, a Major , O.C., and 

two junior officers. 

Don't know yet what messing arrangements 
are. We each have a bunk to ourselves, with a 
proper mattress, pillow, and blankets : a table 
and seat at one end, lots of racks and hooks, 
and a lovely little washing-house leading out of 
the bunk, shared by the two Sisters on each side 
of it: each has a door into it. No one knows 
where we are going; we start this afternoon. 

6 p.m. — Not off yet. We had lunch in a small 
dining-car, we four Sisters at one table, Major 



68 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 



and his two Civil Surgeons at another, and 



some French officials of the train at another. 
Meal cooked and served by the French — quite 
nice, no cloth, only one knife and fork. They 
are all very friendly and jolly. 

In between the actual dealing with the wounded, 
which is only too real, it all feels like a play or a 
dream : why should the whole of France, at any 
rate along the railways and places on them, be 
upside down, swarming with British soldiers, and 
all, French and English, working for and talking 
of the one thing ? everything, and every house 
and every hotel, school, and college, being used 
for something different from what it was meant 
for ; the billeting is universal. You hear a funny 
alternation of educated and uneducated English 
on all sides of you, and loud French gabbling of 
all sorts. By day you see aeroplanes and troop 
trains and artillery trains ; and by night you see 
searchlights and hear the incessant wailing and 
squawking of the train whistles. On every plat- 
form and at every public doors or gates are the 
red and blue French soldiers with their long 
spikey bayonets, or our Tommies with the short 
broad bayonets that don't look half so deadly 
though I expect they are much worse. You 
either have to have a written passport up here, 
or you must know the " mot " if challenged by 
the French sentries. All this from Havre and 
St Nazaire up to the Front. 



FIRST EXPERIENCES 69 

The train is one-third mile long, so three walks 
along its side gives you exercise for a mile. The 
ward beds are lovely : broad and soft, with lovely 
pillow-cases and soft thick blankets ; any amount 
of dressings and surgical equipment, and a big 
kitchen, steward's store, and three orderlies to 
each waggon. Shouldn't be surprised if we get 
" there " in the dark, and won't see the war 
country. Sometimes you are stopped by bridges 
being blown up in front of you, and little obstacles 
of that kind. 

Wednesday, October 14th. — Still in the siding 
" waiting for orders " to move on. There's a 
lot of waiting being done in this war one way and 
another, as well as a lot of doing. What a splen- 
did message the French Government have sent 
the Belgian Government on coming to Havre ! 
exciting for the people at Havre : they used to go 
mad when dusty motor-cars with a few exhausted- 
looking Belgians arrived in Havre. 

We seem to be going to Rouen and up 
from there. Villeneuve is going to be evacu- 
ated as a military P.O. centre and other head- 
quarters, and Abbeville to be the place — west of 
Amiens. 

I had an excellent night, no sheets (because ot 
the difficulties of washing), my own rug next 
me, and lots of blankets : the view, with trucks 
on each side, is not inspiring, but will improve 



7 o DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

when we move: have only been allowed walks 
alongside the train to-day because it may move 
at any minute (although it has no engine as yet !), 
and you mayn't leave the train without a pass 
from the Major. 

M.O.'s and Sisters live on one waggon, all our 
little doors opening into the same corridor, where 
we have tea ; it is a very easy family party. Our 
beds are all sofas in the daytime and quite public, 
unless we like to shut our doors. It is pouring 
to-day — first wet day for weeks. 

Orders just come that we move at 8.46 for 
Abbeville, and get orders for the Front from 
there. 

6.30 p.m. — Another order just come that our 
destination is Braisne, not Abbeville. They 
have always seen shells bursting at Braisne. 
I'm glad it's Braisne, as we shall get to the 
other part next journey, I expect. 

8.45 p.m. — Started at last. 

Thursday, October 15^, 10 a.m. — Braisne. Got 
here about 8 o'clock. After daylight only evidence 
of the war I could see from my bed were long 
lines of French troops in the roads, and a few 
British camps ; villages all look deserted. Guns 
booming in he distance, sounds like heavy port- 
manteaux being dropped on the roof at regular 
intervals. Some London Scottish on the station 



FIRST EXPERIENCES 71 

say all the troops have gone from here except 
themselves and the R.A.M.C. There are some 
wounded to come on here. 

There is an R.E. camp just opposite in a very 
wet wood, and quagmires of mud. They have 
built Kaffir kraals to sleep in — very sodden-look- 
ing ; they've just asked for some papers ; we had 
a few. They build pontoons over the Aisne at 
night and camp here by day. 

4 p.m. — We have only taken twelve cases on as 
yet, but are having quite an exciting afternoon. 
Shells are coming at intervals into the village. 
I've seen two burst in the houses, and one came 
right over our train. Two French soldiers on 
the line lay flat on their faces ; one or two 
orderlies got under the train ; one went on fish- 
ing in the pond close by, and the wounded 
^Tommies got rather excited, and translated the 
different sounds of " them Jack Johnsons " and 
"them Coal-boxes" and "Calamity Kate," and 
of our guns and a machine-gun popping. There 
is a troop train just behind us that they may be 
potting at, or some gunners in the village, or the 
R.E. camp. There have been two aeroplanes 
over us this afternoon. You hear the shell coming 
a long way off, rather like a falsetto motor-engine, 
and then it bursts (twice in the trees of this wood 
where we are standing). There is an endless line 
of French horse transport winding up the wood 



72 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

on the other side, and now some French cavalry. 
The R.T.O. is now having the train moved to a 
safer place. 

The troops have all gone except the ist 
Division, who are waiting for the French to take 
their place, and then all the British will be on the 
Arras line, I believe, where we shall go next. 
(There's another close to the train.) They make 
such a fascinating purring noise coming, ending 
in a singing scream ; you have to jump up and 
see. It is a yellowish-green sound ! But you 
can't see it till it bursts. 

None of the twelve taken on need any looking 
after at night besides what the orderly can do, so 
we shall go to bed. 

We had another shell over the train, which 
(not the train) exploded with a loud bang in 
the wood the other side ; made one jump more 
than any yet, and that was in the " safer 
place" the R.T.O. had the train moved to. 

Friday, October 16th, 2 p.m. — Have had a very 
busy time since last entry. The shelling of the 
village was aimed at the church, the steeple of 
which was being used by the French for signal- 
ling. A butcher was killed and a boy injured, 
and as the British Clearing Hospital was in the 
church and the French Hospital next door they 
were all cleared out into our train ; many very bad 






FIRST EXPERIENCES 73 

cases, fractured spine, a nearly dying lung case, a 
boy with wound in lung and liver, three pneu- 
monias, some bad enterics (though the worst 
have not been moved). A great sensation was 
having four badly wounded French women, one 
minus an arm, aged 16 ; another minus a foot, 
aged 61, amputation after shell wounds from a 
place higher up. They are in the compartment next 
three wounded officers. They are all four angeli- 
cally good and brave and grateful ; it does seem 
hard luck on them. It was not easy getting them 
all settled in, in a pitch-dark evening, the trains 
so high from the ground ; and a good deal of excite- 
ment all round over the shelling, which only left 
off at dusk. One of the C.S.'s had a narrow 
shave on his way from the train to the R.T.O. J 
he had just time to lie flat, and it burst a few 
yards from him, on the line. S. and I stayed up 
till 3 a.m. and then called the others, and we got 
up again at 8 and were all busy all the morning. 
It is a weird business at night, picking your way 
through kitchens and storerooms and wards with 
a lantern over the rickety bridges and innumer- 
able heavy swing-doors. I was glad of the brown 
overall G. sent me, and am wearing the mack- 
intosh apron to-day that N. made me. We are 
probably staying here several days, and are doing 
day and night duty entire — not divided as last 
night. I am on day. We have a great many 



74 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

washings in the morning, and have to make one 
water do for one compartment — (the train ran 
out of water this morning — since refilled from the 
river alongside) ; and bed-makings, and a lot of 
four - hourly treatment with the acutes. The 
enteric ward has a very good orderly, and 
excellent disinfecting arrangements. It is in my 
division of the train. Lack of drinking water 
makes things very difficult. 

I thought things were difficult in the hospitals 
at Le Mans owing to lack of equipment, but that 
was child's play compared to the structural diffi- 
culties of working a hospital on a train, especially 
when it stands in a siding several days. One 
man will have to die on the train if we don't 
move soon, but we are not full up yet. Twenty- 
seven men — minor cases — bolted from the church 
yesterday evening on to the train when the shells 
were dropping, and were ignominiously sent back 
this morning. 

It has so far been the most exciting journey the 
train has had. Jack Johnson has been very quiet 
all the morning, but he spoke for a little again 
just now. I'm going to have a rest now till four. 

Four Tommies in one bunk yesterday told me 
things about the trenches and the fighting line, 
which you have to believe because they are 
obviously giving recent intimate personal ex- 
periences ; but how do they or any one ever 



FIRST EXPERIENCES 75 

live through it ? These came all through the 
Retreat from Mons. Then through the wet 
weather in the trenches on the Aisne — where 
they don't always get hot tea (as is said in the 
papers, much to their scorn). They even had to 
take the tea and sugar out of the haversacks of 
dead Germans ; no one had had time to bury for 
twelve days — "it warn't no use to them," they 
said, " and we could do with it." 

In the Retreat they said men's boots were 
worn right off and they marched without ; the 
packs were thrown away, and the young boys 
died of exhaustion and heat. The officers 
guarded each pump in case they should drink 
bad water, and they drank water wrung out of 
their towels ! 

"And just as Bill got to the pump the shell 
burst on him — it made a proper mess of him " — 
this with a stare of horror. And they never 
criticise or rant about it, but accept it as their 
share for the time being. 

The train is to-day in a place with a perfect 
wood on both sides, glowing with autumn colours, 
and through it goes a road with continual little 
parties of French cavalry, motors, and transport 
waggons passing up it. 

Saturday, October 17th. — We are to stay here 
till Monday, to go on taking up the wounded 



76 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

from the ist Division. They went on coming 
in all yesterday in motor ambulances. They 
come straight from the trenches, and are awfully 
happy on the train with the first attempts at 
comforts they have known. One told me they 
were just getting their tea one day, relieving the 
trenches, when "one o' them coal-boxes" sent a 
256 lb. shell into them, which killed seven and 
wounded fifteen. One shell ! He said he had 
to help pick them up and it made him sick. 

10 p.m. — Wrote the last before breakfast, and 
we haven't sat down since. We are to move 
back to Villeneuve to-morrow, dropping the sick 
probably at Versailles. Every one thankful to be 
going to move at last. The gas has given out, 
and the entire train is lit by candles. 

Imagine a hospital as big as King's College 
Hospital all packed into a train, and having to be 
self-provisioned, watered, sanitated, lit, cleaned, 
doctored and nursed and staffed and officered, all 
within its own limits. No outside person can 
realise the difficulties except those who try to 
work it. 

The patients are extraordinarily good, and take 
everything as it comes (or as it doesn't come!) 
without any grumbling. Your day is taken up in 
rapidly deciding which of all the things that 
want doing you must let go undone ; shall they 
be washed or fed, or beds made, or have their 



FIRST EXPERIENCES 77 

hypodermics and brandies and medicines, or 
their dressings done ? You end in doing some 
of each in each carriage, or in washing them 
after dinner instead of before breakfast. 

The guns have been banging all the afternoon ; 
some have dropped pretty near again to-day, but 
you haven't time to take much notice. Our 
meals are very funny — always candles stuck in 
a wine bottle — no tablecloth — everything on one 
plate with the same knife and fork — coffee in a 
glass, served by a charming dirty Frenchman ; 
many jokes going on between the three tables — 
the French officials, the M.O.'s, and us. Our 
own bunks are quite civilised and cosy, though 
as small as half a big bathing-machine — swept 
out by our batman. 

We have some French wounded and sick on 
the train. 

I see some parsons are enlisting in the 
R.A.M.C. I hope they know how to scrub 
floors, clean lavatories, dish out the meals, sleep 
on the floor, go without baths, live on Maconochie 
rations, and heave bales and boxes about, and 
carry stretchers ; the orderlies have a very hard 
life — and no glory. 

Must turn in. 

Sunday, October iSth, 9 p.m. — Got under way at 
6 a.m., and are now about half-way between 



78 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Paris and Rouen. We outskirted Paris. Passed 
a train full of Indian troops. Put off the four 
wounded women at Paris ; they have been a great 
addition to the work, but very sweet and brave ; 
the orderlies couldn't do enough for them ; they 
adored them, and were so indignant at their 
being wounded. Another man died to-day — 
shot through the pelvis. One of the enterics, 
a Skye man, thinks I'm his mother; told me 
to-night there was a German spy in his carriage, 
and that he had " 50 dead Jocks to bury — and it 
wasn't the buryin' he didn't like but the feeling 
of it." He babbles continually of Germans, 
ammunition, guns, Jocks, and rations. 

Sunday is not Sunday, of course, on a train : 
no Padre, no services, no nothing — not even any 
Time. The only thing to mark it to-day is one 
of the Civil Surgeons wearing his new boots. 

We shan't get any letters yet till we get to 
the new railhead. I'm hoping we shall get time 
at Rouen to see the Cathedral, do some shop- 
ping, have a bath and a shampoo, but probably 
shan't. 

Monday, October igth. — Rouen, 9 p.m. Got 
here late last night, and all the wounded were 
taken off straight away to the two general 
hospitals here. 

One has 1300 cases, and has kept two people 



FIRST EXPERIENCES 79 

operating day and night. A great many deaths 
from tetanus. 

Seen General French's 2nd despatch (of 
September) to-day in ' Daily Mail.' No mail 
in, alas ! Had a regular debauch in cathedrals 
and baths to-day. This is the most glorious old 
city, two cathedrals of surpassing beauty, lovely 
old streets, broad river, hills, and lovely hot 
baths and hair shampooing. What with two 
cathedrals, a happy hour in a hot bath, a 
shampoo, and delicious tea in the town, we've 
had a happy day. The train stays here to- 
night and we are off to-morrow ? for ? 



IV. 



On No. — Ambulance Train (2) 

FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 
October 20, 1914, to November 17, 1914 



The thundering- line of battle stands, 
And in the air Death moans and sings ; 

But Day shall clasp him with strong hands, 
And Night shall fold him with soft wings." 

— Julian Grenfell. 



IV. 
On No. — Ambulance Train (2). 

FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES. 

October 20, 1914, to November 17, 1914. 

Rouen — First Battle of Ypres — At Ypres — A rest — 
A General Hospital. 

Tuesday, October 20th, 6 p.m. — Just leaving Rouen 
for Boulogne. We've seen some of the Indians. 
The Canadians seem to be still on Salisbury 
Plain. No one knows what we're going to 
Boulogne empty for. 

We have been busy to-day getting the train 
ready, stocking dressings, &c. All the 500 blankets 
are sent in to be fumigated after each journey, 
and 500 others drawn instead. And well they 
may be ; one of the difficulties is the lively 
condition of the men's shirts and trousers (with 
worse than fleas) when they come from the 
trenches in the same clothes they've worn for 
five weeks or more. You can't wonder we 
made tracks for a bath at Rouen. 



84 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

We've just taken on two Belgian officers who 
want a lift to Boulogne. 

Wednesday, October 21st. — Arrived at Boulogne 
6 a.m. Went on to Calais, and reached St Omer 
at 2 p.m., where I believe we are to take up from 
the motor ambulances. A train of Indians is 
here. Some Belgian refugees boarded the train 
at Boulogne, and wanted a lift to Calais, but had 
to be turned off reluctantly on both sides. Have 
been going through bedding equipment to-day. 

No mail for me yet, but the others have had 
one to-day. 

3.30 p.m. — Off for Steenwerck, close to the 
Belgian frontier, N.W. of Lille. Good business 
Just seen five aeroplanes. Have been warned 

by Major to wear brassards in prominent 

place, owing to dangerous journey in view ! 

4.30. — This feels like the Front again. Thou- 
sands and thousands of Indian troops are march- 
ing close to the line, with long fair British officers 
in turbans, mounted, who salute us, and we wave 
back ; transport on mules. Gorgeous sunset going 
on ; perfectly flat country ; no railway traffic ex- 
cept de la Guerre. 

6 p.m., Steenwerck. — Pitch dark ; saw big guns 
flashing some way off. The motor ambulances 
are not yet in with the wounded. The line is 
cut farther on. 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 85 

8 p.m. — We have had dinner, and have just 
been down the line to see the place about 100 
yards off. The Germans were here six days 
ago ; got into a big sewer that goes under the 
line, and blew it up. There is a hole 30 feet 
long, 15 across and 15 deep — very good piece 
of work. They occupied the station, and bragged 
about getting across to England from Calais. 
The M.O. who lives here, to be the link (with 
a sergeant and seven men) between the field 
ambulances and the trains, dined with us. It 
is a wee place. The station is his head- 
quarters. 

Thursday, October 22nd. — Took on from convoys 
all night in pitch darkness — a very bad load this 
time ; going to go septic ; swelling under the 
bandages. There was a fractured spine and a 
malignant oedema, both dying ; we put these 
two off to-day at St Omer. We came straight 
away in the morning, and are now nearly back 
at Boulogne. 

YPRES. 

Friday, October 23rd. — All unloaded by 11 p.m. 
last night. (1800 in a day and a night.) No. — 
A.T. was in ; visited M. and S. Bed by 12 ; 
clothes on for forty hours. Slept alongside 



86 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

quay. Two hospital ships in ; watched them 
loading up from ambulances. No time to go 
ashore. The wounded officers we had this time 
said the fighting at the Front is very heavy. 
The men said the same. They slept from sheer 
exhaustion almost before their boots were got 
off, and before the cocoa came round. In the 
morning they perked up very pleased with their 
sleep, and talked incessantly of the trenches, and 
the charges, and the odds each regiment had 
against them, and how many were left out of 
their company, and all the most gruesome de- 
tails you can imagine. They seem to get their 
blood up against the Germans when they're 
actually doing the fighting — " you're too excited 
to notice what hits you, or to think of anything 
but your life " (" and your country," one man 
added). " Some of us has got to get killed, and 
some wounded, and some captured, and we 
wonder which is for us." 

ii. 15. — Just off for ? I was in the act of 

trotting off into the town to find the baths, 
when I met a London Scottish with a very 
urgent note for the O.C. ; thought I'd better 
bide a wee, and it was to say "Your train is 
urgently required ; how soon can you start ? " 
So I had a lucky escape of being left behind. 
(We had leave till 1 p.m.) Then the Major 
nearly got left ; we couldn't start that minute, 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 87 

because our stores weren't all in, and the R.T.O. 
came up in a great fuss that we were holding up 
five supply trains and reinforcements ; so the 
British Army had to wait for us. 

The worst discomforts of this life are (a) cold ; 

(b) want of drinking water when you're thirsty; 

(c) the appalling atmosphere of the French dining- 
car ; (d) lack of room for a bath, and difficulty of 
getting hot water ; (e) dirt ; (/) eccentricities in 
the meals ; (g) bad (or no) lights ; (h) difficulties 
of getting laundry done ; (i) personal capture of 
various live stock ; (j) broken nights ; (k) want 
of exercise on the up journey. Against all these 
minor details put being at the Front, and all that 
that includes of thrilling interest, — being part of 
the machinery to give the men the first care and 
comparative comfort since they landed, at the 
time they most need it — and least expect it. 

6 p.m. — Hazebrouck again. We are said to 
be going to Belgium this time — possibly Ypres. 
There are a terrible lot of wounded to be got 
down — more than all the trains can take ; they 
are putting some of them off on the stations 
where there is a M.O. with a few men, and 
going back for more. 

There were two lovely French torpedo-boats 
alongside of us at Boulogne. 

7.30 p.m., Ypres. — Just arrived, all very bucked 
at being in Belgium. An armoured train, pro- 



88 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

tective coloured all over in huge dabs of red, 
blue, yellow, and green against aeroplanes, is 
alongside of us in the station, manned by thirty 
men R.N. ; three trucks are called Nelson, 
Jellicoe, and Drake, with guns. They look 
fine ; the men say it is a great game. They 
are directed where to fire at German positions 
or batteries, and as soon as they answer, the 
train nips out of range. They were very jolly, 
and showed us their tame rabbit on active ser- 
vice. They have had no casualties so far. Our 
load hasn't come in yet. We are two miles 
from our fighting line. No firing to-night to 
be heard — soon began, though. 

Sunday, October 25th. — Couldn't write last 
night : the only thing was to try and forget it 
all. It has been an absolute hell of a journey 
— there is no other word for it. First, you must 
understand that this big battle from Ostend to 
Lille is perhaps the most desperate of all, though 
that is said of each in turn — Mons, the Aisne, and 
this ; but the men and officers who have been 
through all say this is the worst. The Germans 
are desperate, and stick at nothing, and the 
Allies are the same ; and in determination to 
drive them back, each man personally seems to 
be the same. Consequently the " carnage " is 
being appalling, and we have been practically in 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 89 

it, as far as horrors go. Guns were cracking 
and splitting all night, lighting up the sky in 
flashes, and fires were burning on both sides. 
The Clearing Hospital close by, which was re- 
ceiving the wounded from the field and sending 
them on to us, was packed and overflowing with 
badly wounded, the M.O. on the station said. 

We had 368 ; a good 200 were dangerously and 
seriously wounded, perhaps more ; and the sitting- 
up cases were bad enough. The compound- 
fractured femurs were put up with rifles and 
pick-handles for splints, padded with bits of kilts 
and straw; nearly all the men had more than 
one wound — some had ten ; one man with a 
huge compound fracture above the elbow had 
tied on a bit of string with a bullet in it as a 
tourniquet above the wound himself. When 
I cut off his soaked three layers of sleeve there 
was no dressing on it at all. 

They were bleeding faster than we could cope 
with it ; and the agony of getting them off the 
stretchers on to the top bunks is a thing to 
forget. We were full up by about 2 a.m., and then 
were delayed by a collision up the line, which 
was blocked by dead horses as a result. All night 
and without a break till we got back to Boulogne 
at 4 p.m. next day (yesterday) we grappled with 
them, and some were not dressed when we got 
into B . The head cases were delirious, and 



go DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

trying to get out of the window, and we were 
giving strychnine and morphia all round. Two 
were put off dying at St Omer, but we kept the 
rest alive to Boulogne. The outstanding shining 
thing that hit you in the eye all through was the 
universal silent pluck of the men ; they stuck it 
all without a whine or complaint or even a 
comment : it was, " Would you mind moving my 
leg when you get time," and " Thank you very 
much," or "That's absolutely glorious," as one 
boy said on having his bootlace cut, or " That's 
grand," when you struck a lucky position for a 
wound in the back. One badly smashed up said 
contentedly, " I was lucky — I was the only man 
left alive in our trench " ; so was another in an- 
other trench ; sixteen out of twenty-five of one 
Company in a trench were on the train, all 
seriously wounded except one. One man with 
both legs smashed and other wounds was asked 
if it was all by one shell : " Oh yes ; why, the man 
next me was blowed to bits." The bleeding made 
them all frightfully thirsty (they had only been 
hit a few hours many of them), and luckily we 
had got in a good supply of boiled water before- 
hand on each carriage, so we had plenty when 
there was time to get it. In the middle of the 
worst of it in the night I became conscious of a 
Belgian Boy Scout of fourteen in the corridor, 
with a glass and a pail of drinking water; that 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 91 

boy worked for hours with his glass and pail on 
his own, or wherever you sent him. We took 
him back to Calais. He had come up into the 
firing line on his cycle fitted with a rifle, with 
tobacco for the troops, and lived with the British 
whom he loved, sharing their rations. He was 
a little brick ; one of the Civil Surgeons got him 
taken back with us, where he wanted to go. 

There were twenty-five officers on the train. 
They said there were 11,000 Germans dead, and 
they were using the dead piled up instead of 
trenches. 

About 1 o'clock that night we heard a rifle 
shot : it was a German spy shooting at the sentry 
sailor on the armoured train alongside of us ; 
they didn't catch him. 

It took from 4 to 10 p.m. to unload our bad 
cases and get them into hospitals on motor 
ambulances : they lay in rows on their stretchers 
on the platform waiting their turn without a 
grumble. 

There have been so many hundreds brought 
down this week that they've had suddenly to clear 
four hotels for hospitals. 

We are now in the filthiest of sidings, and 
the smell of the burning of our heaps of filthy 
debris off the train is enough to make you sick. 
We all slept like logs last night, and could have 
gone on all day ; but the train has to be cleaned 



92 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

down by the orderlies, and everything got ready 
for the next lot : they nearly moved us up again 
last night, but we shall go to-day. 

I think if one knew beforehand what all this 
was going to be like one would hardly want 
to face it, but somehow you're glad to be 
there. 

We were tackling a bad wound in the head, 
and when it was finished and the man was being 
got comfortable, he flinched and remarked, " That 
leg is a beast." We found a compound-fractured 
femur put up with a rifle for a splint ! He had 
blankets on, and had never mentioned that his 
thigh was broken. It too had to be packed, and 
all he said was, " That leg is a beast," and " That 
leg is a Beast." 

Monday, the 26th, 7 a.m., Ypres. — We got here 
again about 10 p.m. last night in pouring wet, 
and expected another night like Friday night, 
but we for some reason remained short of the 
station, and when we found there was nothing 
doing, lay down in our clothes and slept, booted 
and spurred in mackintosh, aprons, &c. We 
were all so tired and done up yesterday, M.O.'s, 
Sisters, and orderlies, that we were glad of the 
respite. There was a tremendous banging and 
flashing to the north about three o'clock, and 
this morning it was very noisy, and shaking the 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 93 

train. Some of it sounds quite close. It is a 
noise you rather miss when it leaves off. 

One of the last lot of officers told us he had 
himself seen in a barn three women and some 
children, all dead, and all with no hands. 

The noise this morning is like a continuous 
roll of thunder interrupted by loud bangs, and 
the popping of the French mitrailleuses, like our 
Maxims. The nearest Tommy can get to that 
word is " mileytrawsers." There are two other 
A.T.'s in, but I hear we are to load up first. 

This place is full of Belgian women and 
children refugees in a bad way from exhaustion. 

A long line of our horse ambulances is coming 
slowly in. 

Had a very interesting morning. Got leave to go 
into the town and see the Cathedral of St Martin. 
None of the others would budge from the train, 
so I went alone ; town chock-full of French and 
Belgian troops, and unending streams of columns, 
also Belgian refugees, cars full of staff officers. 
The Cathedral is thirteenth century, glorious as 
usual. There are hundreds of German prisoners 
in the town in the Cloth Hall. It was a very 
warrish feeling saying one's prayers in the 
Cathedral to the sound of the guns of one of 
the greatest battles in the world. 

An M.O. from the Clearing Hospital, with a 
haggard face, asked me if I could give him some 



94 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

eau-de-Cologne and Bovril for a wounded officer 
with a gangrenous leg — lying on the station. 
Sister X. and I took some down, also morphia, 
and fed them all — frightful cases on stretchers 
in the waiting-room. They are for our train 
when we can get in. He told me he had never seen 
such awful wounds, or such numbers of them. 
They are being brought down in carts or anything. 
He said there are 1500 dead Germans piled up 
in a field five miles off. They say that German 
officers of ten days' service are commanding. 

Tuesday, October 2jth, Boulogne. — We got loaded 
up and off by about 7 p.m., and arrived back here 
this morning. There are two trains to unload 
ahead of us, so we shall probably be on duty all 
day. It is the second night running we haven't 
had our clothes off — though we did lie down the 
night before. Last night we had each a four-hour 
shift to lie down, when all the worst were seen to. 
One man died at 6 a.m. and another is dying : 
many as usual are delirious, and the haemorrhage 
was worse than ever : it is frightfully difficult to 
stop it with these bad wounds and compound 
fractures. One sergeant has both eyes gone from 
a shell wound. 

The twelve sitting -up cases on each carriage 
are a joy after the tragedy of the rest. The)' 
sit up talking and smoking till late, " because 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 95 

they are so surprised and pleased to be alive, 
and it is too comfortable to sleep ! " 

One man with a broken leg gave me both his 
pillows for a worse man, and said, " I'm not 
bad at all — only got me leg broke." A Reading 
man, with his face wounded and one eye gone, 
kept up a running fire of wit and hilarity during 
his dressing about having himself photographed 
as a Guy Fawkes for ' Sketchy Bits.' 

Wednesday, October 28th. — Got to Boulogne 
yesterday morning ; then followed a most diffi- 
cult day. It was not till 10 p.m. that they 
began to unload the sick. The unloading staff 
at Boulogne have been so overworked night 
and day that trains get piled up waiting to be 
unloaded. Fifty motor ambulances have been 
sent for to the Front, and here they have to 
depend largely on volunteer people with private 
motors. Then trains get blocked by other 
trains each side of them, and nothing short 
of the fear of death will move a French engine- 
driver to do what you want him to do. Mean- 
while two men on our train died, and several 
others were getting on with it, and all the 
serious cases were in great distress and misery. 
As a crowning help the train was divided into 
three parts, each five minutes' walk from any 
other — dispensary on one bit, kitchen on an- 



9 6 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

other. Everybody got very desperate, and at 
last, after superhuman efforts, the train was 
cleared by midnight, and we went thankfully 
but wearily to our beds, which we had not got 
into for the two previous nights. 

To - day was fine and sunny, and while the 
train was getting in stores we went into the 
town to find a blanchisserie, and bought a 
cake and a petticoat and had a breath of differ- 
ent air. We expect to move up again any time 
now. Most welcome mails in. 

News of De Wet's rebellion to - day. I 
wonder if Botha will be able to hold it ? 

1 The Times ' of yesterday (which you can get 
here) and to-day's 'Daily Mail' say the fight- 
ing beyond Ypres is " severe," but that gives 
the British public no glimmering of what it 

really is. The Regiment had three men 

left out of one company. The men say 

General cried on seeing the remains of 

the regiments who answered the rolls. And 
yet we still drive the Germans back. 

There is a train full of slightly wounded 
Indians in : they are cooking chupatties on 
nothing along the quay. The boats were 
packed with refugee families yesterday. We 
had some badly wounded Germans on our 
train and some French officers. The British 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 97 

Army doesn't intend the Germans to get to 
Calais, and they won't get. 

Thursday, October 2gth, Nieppe. — Woke up to 
the familiar bangs and rattles again — this time 
at a wee place about four miles from Armen- 
tieres. We are to take up 150 here and go 
back to Bailleul for 150 there. It is a lovely 
sunny morning, but very cold ; the peasants 
are working in the fields as peacefully as 
at home. An R.A.M.C. lieutenant was killed 
by a shell three miles from here three days 
ago. We've just been giving out scarves and 
socks to some Field Ambulance men along the 
line. 

Just seen a British aeroplane send off a signal 
to our batteries — a long smoky snake in the 
sky ; also a very big British aeroplane with a 
machine - gun on her. A German aeroplane 
dropped a bomb into this field on Tuesday, 
meant for the Air Station here. This is the 
Headquarters of the 4th Division. 

Friday, October 30th, Boulogne. — While we 
were at Nieppe, after passing Bailleul, a 
German aeroplane dropped a bomb on to 
Bailleul. After filling up at Nieppe we went 
back to Bailleul and took up 238 Indians, 

G 



98 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

mostly with smashed left arms from a machine- 
gun that caught them in the act of firing over 
a trench. They are nearly all 47th Sikhs, 
perfect lambs : they hold up their wounded 
hands and arms like babies for you to see, 
and insist on having them dressed whether 
they've just been done or not. They behave 
like gentlemen, and salaam after you've dressed 
them. They have masses of long, fine, dark 
hair under their turbans done up with yellow 
combs, glorious teeth, and melting dark eyes. 
One died. The younger boys have beautiful 
classic Italian faces, and the rest have fierce 
black beards curling over their ears. 

We carried 387 cases this time. 

Later. — We got unloaded much more quickly 
to-day, and have been able to have a good 
rest this afternoon, as I went to bed at 3 a.m. 
and was up again by 8. It was not so heavy 
this time, as the Indians were mostly sitting- 
up cases. Those of a different caste had to 
sleep on the floor of the corridors, as the 
others wouldn't have them in. One compart- 
ment of four lying-down ones got restless with 
the pain of their arms, and I found them all 
sitting up rocking their arms and wailing 
" Aie, Aie, Aie," poor pets. They all had 
morphia, and subsided. One British Tommy 
said to me : " Don't take no notice o' the 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 99 

dirt on me flesh, Sister; I ain't 'ad much time 
to wash ! " quite seriously. 

Another bad one needed dressing. I said, 
" I won't hurt you." And he said in a hope- 
less sort of voice, " I don't care if you do." 
He had been through a little too much. 

It is fine getting the same day's London 
' Daily Mail ' here by the Folkestone boat. 

It is interesting to hear the individual men 
express their conviction that the British will 
never let the Germans through to Calais. They 
seem as keen as the Generals or the Govern- 
ment. That is why we have had such thousands 
of wounded in Boulogne in this one week. It 
is quite difficult to nurse the Germans, and 
impossible to love your enemies. We always 
have some on the train. One man of the 
D.L.I, was bayoneted in three different places, 
after being badly wounded in the arm by a 
dumdum bullet. (They make a small entrance 
hole and burst the limb open in exit.) The man 
who bayoneted him died in the next bed to 
him in the Clearing Hospital yesterday morning. 
You feel that they have all been doing that 
and worse. We hear at first hand from officers 
and men specified local instances of unprintable 
wickedness. 

Saturday, October 31st. — Left Boulogne at twelve, 



ioo DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

and have just reached Bailleul, 6 p.m., where we 
are to take up wounded Indians again. Some- 
how they are not so harrowing as the wounded 
British, perhaps because of the block in language 
and the weirdness of them. Big guns are boom- 
ing again. (This was the most critical day of 
the first battle of Ypres.) 

H. sent me a lovely parcel of fifty packets of 
cigarettes and some chocolate, and A. sent a 
box of nutmilk choc. They will be grand for 
the men. 

One drawback on having the Indians is that 
you find them squatting in the corridor, com- 
paring notes on what varieties they find in 
their clothing ! Considering the way one gets 
smothered with their blankets in the bunks it 
is the most personally alarming element in the 
War so far. 

Sunday, November ist, Boulogne — All Saints' 
Day. — We loaded up with British after all, late 
in the evening, and had a very heavy night : 
one of mine died suddenly of femoral haemorrhage, 
after sitting up and enjoying his breakfast. 

12 noon. — We are still unloaded, but I was up 
all night, and so went out for a blow after break- 
fast. Found two British T.B.D.'s in dock; on 
one they were having divine service, close to 
the quay. I listened specially to the part about 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 101 

loving our enemies ! Then I found the English 
Church (Colonial and Continental), quite nice 
and good chants, but I was too sleepy to stay 
longer than the Psalms : it is ages since one 
had a chance to go to Church. 

After lunch, now they are all unloaded, one will 
be able to get a stuffy station sleep, regardless 
of noise and smells. 

We carried thirty-nine officers on the train, 
mostly cavalry, very brave and angelic and polite 
in their uncomfortable and unwonted helpless- 
ness. They liked everything enthusiastically — 
the beds and the food and the bandages. One 
worn-out one murmured as he was tucked up, 
" By Jove, it is splendid to be out of the sound 
of those beastly guns; it's priceless." I had a 
very interesting conversation with a Major this 
morning, who was hit yesterday. He says it's 
only a question of where and when you get it, 
sooner or later ; practically no one escapes. 

Rifle firing counts for nothing ; it is all the 
Coal-boxes and Jack Johnsons. The shortage 
of officers is getting very serious on both sides, 
and it becomes more and more a question of 
who can wear out the other in the time. 

He said that Aircraft has altered everything in 
War. German aeroplanes come along, give a 
little dip over our positions, and away go the 
German guns. And these innocent would-be 



102 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

peasants working in the fields give all sorts of 
signals by whirling windmills round suddenly 
when certain regjments come into action. 

The poor L. Regiment were badly cut up in 
this way yesterday half an hour after coming 
into their first action ; we had them on the 
train. 

They say the French fight well with us, better 
than alone, and the Indians can't be kept in 
their trenches; it is up and at 'em. But we 
shall soon have lost all the men we have out 
here. Trains and trains full come in every day 
and night. We are waiting now for five trains 
to unload. It is a dazzling morning. 

Monday, November 2nd. — On way up to . 



The pressure on the Medical Service is now 
enormous. One train came down to-day (without 
Sisters) with 1200 sitting-up cases ; they stayed 
for hours in the siding near us without water, 
cigarettes, or newspapers. You will see in to- 
day's ' Times ' that the Germans have got back 
round Ypres again (where I went into the 
Cathedral last Monday). No. — A.T. was badly 
shelled there yesterday. The Germans were 
trying for the armoured train. The naval officer 
on the armoured train had to stand behind the 
engine-driver with a revolver to make him go 
where he was wanted to. The sitting - up 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 103 

cases on No. — got out and fled three miles 
down the line. A Black Maria shell burst close 
to and killed a man. They are again " urgently 
needing" A.T.'s; so I hope we are going there 
to-night. 

Eighty thousand German reinforcements are 
said to have come up to break through our 
line, and the British dead are now piled up 
on the field. But they aren't letting the 
Germans through. Three of our men died 
before we unloaded at 8 P.M. yesterday, two of 
shock from lying ten hours in the trench, not 
dressed. 

Tuesday, November 3rd, Bailleul, 8.30 a.m. — Just 
going to load up ; wish we'd gone to Ypres. 
Germans said to be advancing. 

Wednesday, November 4th, Boulogne. — We had 
a lot of badly wounded Germans who had 
evidently been left many days ; their condition 
was appalling ; two died (one of tetanus), and 
one British. We have had a lot of the London 
Scottish, wounded in their first action. 

Reinforcements, French guns, British cavalry, 
are being hurried up the line ; they all look 
splendid. 

Wednesday, November nth. — Sometimes it seems 



104 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

as if we shall never get home, the future is so 
unwritten. 

A frightful explosion like this Hell of a War, 
which flared up in a few days, will take so much 
longer to wipe up what can be wiped up. I think 
the British men who have seen the desolation 
and the atrocities in Belgium have all personally 
settled that it shan't happen in England, and 
that is why the headlines always read — 

"THE BRITISH ARMY IMMOVABLE." 

"WAVES OF GERMAN INFANTRY BROKEN." 

" ALLIES THROW ENEMY BACK AT ALL POINTS." 

"YPRES HELD FOR THREE WEEKS UNDER A 



You can tell they feel like that from their entire 
lack of resentment about their own injuries. 
Their conversation to each other from the time 
they are landed on the train until they are taken 
off is never about their own wounds and feelings, 
but exclusively about the fighting they have just 
left. If one only had time to listen or take it 
down it would be something worth reading, 
because it is not letters home or newspaper stuff, 
but told to each other, with their own curious com- 
ments and phraseology, and no hint of a gallery 
or a Press. Incidentally one gets a few eye- 
openers into what happens to a group of men 
when a Jack Johnson lands a shell in the middle 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 105 

of them. Nearly every man on the train, 
especially the badly smashed-up ones, tells you 
how exceptionally lucky he was because he 
didn't get killed like his mate. 

Boulogne, Thursday, November 12th, 8 p.m. — 
Have been here all day. Had a hot bath on 
the St Andrew. News from the Front handed 
down the line coincides with the ' Daily Mail.' 

Friday, 13th. — Still here — fourth day of rest. 
No one knows why ; nearly all the trains are 
here. The news to-day is glorious. They say 
that the Germans did get through into Ypres 
and were bayoneted out again. 

Friday, November 13th, Boulogne. — We have 
been all day in Park Lane Siding among the 
trains, in pouring wet and slush. I amused 
myself with a pot of white paint and a forceps 
and wool for a brush, painting the numbers on 
both ends of the coaches inside, all down the 
train ; you can't see the chalk marks at night. 

This unprecedented four days' rest and nights 
in bed is doing us all a power of good ; we have 
books and mending and various occupations. 

Saturday, November 14th. — Glorious sunny day, 
but very cold. Still in Boulogne, but out of 



106 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Park Lane Siding slum, and among the ships 
again. Some French sailors off the T.B.'s are 
drilling on one side of us. 

Everything R.A.M.C. at the base is having 
a rest this week — ships, hospitals, and trains. 
Major S. said there was not so much doing at 
the Front — thank Heaven ; and the line is still 
wanted for troops. We have just heard that 
there are several trains to go up before our turn 
comes, and that we are to wait about six miles 
off. Better than the siding anyhow. Meanwhile 
we can't go off, because we don't know when 
the train will move out. 

The tobacco and the cigarettes from Harrod's 
have come in separate parcels, so the next will 
be the chocolate and hankies and cards, &c. 
It is a grand lot, and I am longing to get up 
to the Front and give them out. 

Sunday, November ~L$th. — We got a move on 
in the middle of the night, and are now on 
our way up. 

The cold of this train life is going to be rather 
a problem. Our quarters are not heated, but 
we have " made " {i.e., acquired, looted) a very 
small oil-stove which faintly warms the corridor, 
but you can imagine how no amount of coats 
or clothes keeps you warm in a railway carriage 
in winter. I'm going to make a foot muff out 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 107 

of a brown blanket, which will help. A smart 
walk out of doors would do it, but that you can't 
get when the train is stationary for fear of its 
vanishing, and for obvious reasons when it is 
moving. I did walk round the train for an 
hour in the dark and slime in the siding 
yesterday evening, but it is not a cheering 
form of exercise. 

To-day it is pouring cats and dogs, awful for 
loading sick, and there will be many after this 
week for the trains. 

Every one has of course cleared out of beau- 
tiful Ypres, but we are going to load up at 
Poperinghe, the town next before it, which is 
now Railhead. Lately the trains have not been 
so far. 

Monday, November 16th, Boulogne, 9 a.m. — 
We loaded up at Bailleul 344. The Clearing 
Hospitals were very full, and some came off a 
convoy. One of mine died. One, wounded 
above the knee, was four days in the open be- 
fore being picked up ; he had six bullets in his 
leg, two in each arm, and crawled about till 
found ; one of the arm wounds he got doing 
this. I went to bed at 4. The news was all 
good, taken as a whole, but the men say they 
were " a bit short-handed ! ! " One said gloomily, 
"This isn't War, it's Murder; you go there to 



108 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

your doom." Heard the sad news of Lord 
Roberts. 

We are all the better for our week's rest. 

Tuesday, November ijth , 3 a.m. — When we got 
our load down to Boulogne yesterday morning 
all the hospitals were fall, and the weather 
was too rough for the ships to come in and 
clear them, so we were ordered on to Havre, 
a very long journey. A German died before 
we got to Abbeville, where we put off two more 
very bad ones ; and at Amiens we put off four 
more, who wouldn't have reached Havre. About 
midnight something broke on the train, and we 
were hung up for hours, and haven't yet got 
to Rouen, so we shall have them on the train 
all to-morrow too, and have all the dressings 
to do for the third time. One of the night order- 
lies has been run in for being asleep on duty. 
He climbed into a top bunk (where a French- 
man was taken off at Amiens), and deliberately 
covered up and went to sleep. He was in charge 
of 28 patients. Another was left behind at 
Boulogne, absent without leave, thinking we 
should unload, and the train went off for Havre. 
He'll be run in too. Shows how you can't leave 
the train. Just got to St Just. That looks as 
if .we were going to empty at Versailles instead 
of Havre. Lovely starlight night, but very cold. 



FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES 109 

Everybody feels pleased and honoured that Lord 
Roberts managed to die with us on Active Ser- 
vice at Headquarters, and who would choose a 
better ending to such a life ? 

7 a.m. — After all, we must be crawling round 
to Rouen for Havre; passed Beauvais. Lovely 
sunrise over winter woods and frosted country. 
Our load is a heavy and anxious one — 344 ; we 
shall be glad to land them safely somewhere. 
The amputations, fractures, and lung cases 
stand these long journeys very badly. 






V. 
On No. — Ambulance Train (3) 

BRITISH AND INDIANS 

November 18, 1914, to December 17, 19 14 






Because of you we will be glad and gay, 
Remembering you we will be brave and strong, 
And hail the advent of each dangerous day, 
And meet the Great Adventure with a song." 

— From a poem on "J. G." 



V. 

On No. — Ambulance Train (3). 

BRITISH AND INDIANS. 

November 18, 1914, to December 17, 1914. 

The Boulogne siding — St Omer — Indian soldiers — His 
Majesty King George — Lancashire men on the War 
— Hazebrouck — Bailleul — French engine-drivers — 
Sheepskin coats — A village in N.E. France — Head- 
quarters. 

Wednesday, November 18th, 2 p.m. — At last 
reached beautiful Rouen, through St Just, Beau- 
vais, and up to Sergueux, and down to Rouen. 
From Sergueux through Rouen to Havre is 
supposed to be the most beautiful train journey 
in France, which is saying a good deal. Put 
off some more bad cases here ; a boy sergeant, 
aged 24, may save his eye and general blood- 
poisoning if he gets irrigated quickly. You 
can watch them going wrong, with two days and 
two nights on the train, and it seems such hard 

H 



ii4 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

luck. And then if you don't write Urgent or 
Immediate on their bandages in blue pencil, they 
get overlooked in the rush into hospital when 
they are landed. So funny to be going back 
to old Havre, that hot torrid nightmare of 
Waiting - for - Orders in August. But, thank 
Heaven, we don't stop there, but back to the 
guns again. 

5 p.m. — We are getting on for Havre at last. 
This long journey from Belgium down to Havre 
has been a strange mixture. Glorious country 
with the flame and blue haze of late autumn on 
hills, towns, and valleys, bare beech-woods with 
hot red carpets. Glorious British Army lying 
broken in the train — sleep (or the chance of it) 
three hours one night and four the next, with all 
the hours between (except meals) hard work put- 
ting the British Army together again ; haven't 
taken off my puttees since Sunday. Seems funny, 
400 people (of whom four are women and about 
sixty are sound) all whirling through France by 
special train. Why ? Because of the Swelled 
Head of the All-Highest. 

We had a boy with no wound, suffering from 
shock from shell bursts. When he came round, 
if you asked him his name he would look fixedly 
at you and say "Yes." If you asked him some- 
thing else, with a great effort he said " Mother." 

8 p.m. — Got to Havre, 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 115 

Wednesday, 18th November, 6 p.m. — Sotteville, 
near Rouen. This afternoon's up-journey between 
Havre and Rouen has been a stripe of pure bliss 
with no war about it at all. A brilliant dazzling 
day (which our Island couldn't do if it tried in 
November), rugs, coat, and cushion on your bed, 
and the most heavenly view unrolling itself before 
you without lifting your head to see it, ending 
up with the lights of Rouen twinkling in the 
smoke of the factory chimneys under a flaring red 
sunset. 

We are to stop here for repairs to the train — 
chauffage, electric light, water supply, and gas all 
to be done. Then we shall be a very smart train. 
The electric light and the heating will be the 
greatest help — a chapel and a bathroom I should 
like added ! 

At Havre last night the train ran into the Gare 
Maritime (where we left in the Asturias for St 
Nazaire early in September), which is immediately 
under the great place that No. — G.H. bagged 
for their Hospital in August. I ran up and saw 
it all. It is absolutely first class. There were 
our people off the train in lovely beds, in huge 
wards, with six rows of beds — clean sheets, 
electric light, hot food, and all the M.O.'s, Sisters, 
and Nursing Orderlies, in white overalls, hard at 
work on them — orderlies removing their boots 
and clothing (where we hadn't done it, we leave 



n6 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

as much on as we can now because of the cold). 
Sisters washing them and settling them in, and 
with the M.O. doing their dressings, all as busy 
as bees, only stopping to say to us, "Aren't they 
brave ? " They said we'd brought them an 
awfully bad lot, and we said we shed all the 
worst on the way. They don't realise that by 
the time they get to the base these men are 
beyond complaining ; each stage is a little less 
infernal to them than the one they've left ; and 
instead of complaining, they tell you how lovely 
it is! It made one realise the grimness of our 
stage in it — the emergencies, the makeshifts, and 
the little four can do for nearly 400 in a train 
— with their greatest output. We each had 80 
lying-down cases this journey. 

We got to bed about 11 and didn't wake till 
nearly 9, to the sound of the No. — G.H. 
bugle, Come to the Cook-house door, boys. 

Thursday, November 19th. — Spent the day in a 
wilderness of railway lines at Sotteville — sharp 
frost ; walk up and down the lines all morning ; 
horizon bounded by fog. This afternoon raw, 
wet, snowing, slush outside. If it is so deadly 
cold on this unheated train, what do they do 
in the trenches with practically the same equip- 
ment they came out with in August ? Can't last 
like that. Makes you feel a pig to have a big 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 117 

coat, and hot meals, and dry feet. I've made 
a fine foot muff with a brown blanket ; it is 
twelve thicknesses sewn together ; have still got 
only summer underclothing. My winter things 
have been sent on from Havre, but the parcel 
has not yet reached me; hope- the foot muff will 
ward off chilblains. Got a ' Daily Mail ' of yes- 
terday. We heard of the smash - up of the 
Prussian Guard from the people who did it, and 
had some of the P.G. on our train. Ypres is said 
to be full of German wounded who will very 
likely come to us. 

Friday, November 20th, 10 a.m., Boulogne. — 
Deep snow. 

Boulogne, Saturday, November 21st. — In the 
siding all yesterday and to-day. Train to be 
cut down from 650 tons to 450, so we are re- 
constructing and putting off waggons. It will 
reduce our number of patients, but we shall be 
able to do more for a smaller number, and the 
train will travel better and not waste time block- 
ing up the stations and being left in sidings in 
consequence. The cold this week has been 
absolutely awful. The last train brought almost 
entirely cases of rheumatism. Their only hope 
at the Front must be hot meals, and I expect 
the A.S.C. sees that they get them somehow. 



n8 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

A troop train of a very rough type of Glasgow 
men, reinforcing the Highlanders, was alongside 
of us early yesterday morning; each truck had 
a roaring fire of coke in a pail. They were in 
roaring spirits; it was icy cold. 

My winter things arrived from Havre yesterday, 
so I am better equipped against the cold. Also, 
this morning an engine gave us an hour or 
two's chauffage just at getting-up time, which 
was a help. 

Sunday, November 22nd. — Left B. early this 
morning and got to Merville about midday. 
Loaded up and got back to B. in the night. 
Many wounded Germans and a good lot of our 
sick, knocked over by the cold. I don't know 
how any of them stick it. Five bombs were 
dropped the day before where we were to-day, and 
an old man was killed. Things are being badly 
given away by spies, even of other nationalities. 
Some men were sleeping in a cellar at Ypres 
to avoid the bombardment, with some refugees. 
In the night they missed two of them. They were 
found on the roof signalling to the Germans with 
flash-lights. In the morning they paid the penalty. 

The frost has not broken, and it is still bitterly 
cold. 

Tuesday, November 24th. — Was up all Sunday 



BRITISH AND INDIANS ng 

night ; unloaded early at Boulogne. Had a baih 
on a ship and went to bed. Stayed in siding 
all day. 

Wednesday, November 25th. — Left B. about 9.30. 

Last night at dinner our charming debonair 
French garcon was very drunk, and spilt the soup 
all over me ! There was a great scene in French. 
The fat fatherly corporal (who has a face and 
expression exactly like the Florentine people in 
Ghirlandaio's Nativities, and who has the manners 
of a French aristocrat on his way to the guillotine) 
tried to control him, but it ended in a sort of 
fight, and poor Charles got the sack in the end, 
and has been sent back to Paris to join his 
regiment. He was awfully good to us Sisters — 
used to make us coffee in the night, and fill our 
hot bottles and give us hot bricks for our feet at 
meals. 

Just going on now to a place we've not been to 
before, called Chocques. 

The French have to-day given us an engine 
with the Red Cross on it and an extra man to 
attend to the chauffage, so we have been quite 
warm and lovely. We ply him at the stations 
with cigarettes and chocolate, and he now falls 
over himself in his anxiety to please us. 

The officers of the two Divisions which are 
having a rest have got 100 hours' leave in turns. 



120 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

We all now spend hours mapping out how much 
we could get at home in ioo hours from Boulogne. 

Wednesday, November 25th. — Arrived at 11 P.M. 
last night at a God-forsaken little place about 
eight miles from the firing line. Found a very 
depressed major taking a most gloomy view of life 
and the war, in charge of Indians. Pitch-dark 
night, and they were a mile away from the 
station, so we went to bed at 12 and loaded up 
at 7.30 this morning, all Indians, mostly badly 
wounded. They are such pathetic babies, just as 
inarticulate to us and crying as if it was a creche. 
I've done a great trade in Hindustani, picked up 
at a desperate pace from a Hindu officer to-day ! 
If you write it down you can soon learn it, and 
I've got all the necessary medical jargon now; 
you read it off, and then spout it without looking 
at your note-book. The awkward part is when 
they answer something you haven't got ! 

The Germans are using sort of steam-ploughs 
for cutting trenches. 

The frost has broken, thank goodness. The 
Hindu officer said the cold was more than they 
bargained for, but they were " very, very glad to 
fight for England." He thought the Germans 
were putting up a very good show. There have 
been a great many particularly ghastly wounds 
from hand-grenades in the trenches. We have 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 121 

made a very good journey down, and expect to 
unload this evening, as we are just getting into 
Boulogne at 6.30 p.m. 

Thursday, November 26th. — We did a record 
yesterday. Loaded up with the Indians — full 
load — bad cases — quite a heavy day; back to 
B. and unloaded by 9 p.m., and off again at 
11.30 p.m. No waiting in the siding this time. 
Three hospital ships were waiting this side to 
cross by daylight. They can't cross now by night 
because of enemy torpedoes. So all the hospitals 
were full again, and trains were taking their loads 
on to Rouen and Havre. We should have had to 
if they hadn't been Indians. 

We loaded up to-day at Bailleul, where we 
have been before — headquarters of 3rd and 4th 
Divisions. We had some time to wait there 
before loading up, so went into the town and saw 
the Cathedral — beautiful old tower, hideously 
restored inside, but very big and well kept. The 
town was very interesting. Sentries up the 
streets every hundred yards or so ; the usual 
square packed with transport, and the usual 
jostle of Tommies and staff officers and motor- 
cars and lorries. We saw General French go 
through. 

The Surgeon-General had been there yesterday, 
and five Sisters are to be sent up to each of the 



122 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

two clearing hospitals there. They should have 
an exciting time. A bomb was dropped straight 
on to the hospital two days ago — killed one 
wounded man, blew both hands off one orderly, 
and wounded another. The airman was caught, 
and said he was very sorry he dropped it on the 
hospital; he meant it for Headquarters. We have 
a lot of cases of frost-bite on the train. One is as 
bad as in Scott's Expedition; may have to have 
his foot amputated. I'd never seen it before. 
They are nearly all slight medical cases; very 
few wounded, which makes a very light load from 
the point of view of work, but we shall have them 
on the train all night. One of us is doing all the 
train half the night, and another all the train the 
other half. The other two go to bed all night. 
I am one of these, as I have got a bit of a throat 
and have been sent to bed early. We've never 
had a light enough load for one to do the whole 
train before. The men say things are very quiet 
at the Front just now. Is it the weather or the 
Russian advance ? 

Great amusement to-day. Major P. got left 
behind at Hazebrouck, talking to the R.T.O., but 
scored off us by catching us up at St Omer on an 
engine which he collared. 

Saturday, November 2&th. — Sunny and much 
milder. We came up in the night last night to 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 123 

St Omer, and have not taken any sick on yet. 
There seems to be only medical cases about just 
now, which is a blessed relief to think of. They 
are inevitable in the winter, here or at home. 
The Major has gone up to Poperinghe with one 
carriage to fetch six badly wounded officers and 
four men who were left there the other day when 
the French took the place over. 

I was just getting cigarettes for an up-going 
train of field-kitchens and guns out of your parcel 
when it began to move. The men on each truck 
stood ready, and caught the packets as eagerly as 
if they'd been diamonds as I threw them in from 
my train. It was a great game ; only two went 
on the ground. The " Surprise," I suppose, is in 
the round tin. We are keeping it for a lean day. 

6 p.m. — We are just coming to Chocques for 
Indians again, not far from Armentieres, so I arrf 
looking up my Hindustani conversation again. 

On Friday — the day between these two journeys 
— Sister N. and I got a motor ambulance from the 
T.O. and whirled off to Wimereux in it. It is a 
lovely place on the sea, about three miles off, now 
with every hotel, casino, and school taken up by 
R.A.M.C. Base Hospitals. It was a lovely blue 
morning, and I went right out to the last rock on 
the sands and watched the breakers while Sister 
N. attended to some business. It was glorious 
after the everlasting railway carriage atmosphere. 



i2 4 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Then we found a very nice old church in the town. 
It is too wet to load up with the Indians to-night, 
so we have the night in bed, and take them down 
to-morrow. 

A sergeant of the ioth Hussars told me he was 
in a house with some supposed Belgian refugees. 
He noticed that when a little bell near the ceiling 
rang one of them always dashed upstairs. He 
put a man upstairs to trace this bell and intercept 
the Belgian. It was connected with the little 
trap-door of a pigeon-house. When a pigeon 
came in with a message, this door rang the bell 
and they went up and got the message. They 
didn't reckon on having British in the house. 
They were shot next morning. 

It takes me a month to read a Sevenpenny out 
here. 

Sunday (Advent), November 2gth. — On the way 
down from Chocques. We have got Indians, 
British, and eight Germans this time. One big, 
handsome, dignified Mussulman wouldn't eat his 
biscuit because he was in the same compartment 
as a Hindu, and the Hindu wouldn't eat his be- 
cause the Mussulman had handed it to him. The 
Babu I called in to interpret was very angry with 
both, and called the M. a fool-man, and explained 
to us that he was telling them that in England 
■• Don't care Mussulman, don't care Hindu " — 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 125 

only in Hindustan, and that if the Captain Sahib 
said " Eat," it was " Hukm," and they'd got to. 
My sympathies were with the beautiful, polite, 
sad-looking M., who wouldn't budge an inch, and 
only salaamed when the Babu went for him. 

Monday, November 30th, Boulogne. — Yesterday 
a wounded Tommy on the train told me " the 
Jack Johnsons have all gone." To-day's French 
communique says, " The enemy's heavy artillery 
is little in evidence." There is a less strained 
feeling about everywhere — a most blessed lull. 

We were late getting our load off the train last 
night, and some were very bad. One of my Sikhs 
with pneumonia did not live to reach Boulogne. 
Another pneumonia was very miserable, and kept 
saying, " Hindustan gurrum England tanda." 
They all think they are in England. The Gurkhas 
are supposed by the orderlies to be Japanese. 
They are exactly like Japs, only brown instead of 
yellow. The orderlies make great friends with 
them all. One Hindu was singing " Bonnie 
Dundee " to them in a little gentle voice, very 
much out of tune. Their great disadvantage is 
that they are alive with " Jack Johnsons" (not 
the guns). They take off all their underclothes 
and throw them out of the window, and we have 
to keep supplying them with pyjamas and shirts. 
They sit and stand about naked, scratching for 



126 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

dear life. It is fatal for the train, because all the 
cushioned seats are now infected, and so are we. 
I love them dearly, but it is a big price to pay. 

Tuesday, December ist. — We are to-day in a 
beautiful high embankment at Wimereux, three 
miles from Boulogne, right on the sea, and have 
been dry-docked there till 3 p.m. (when we have 
just started for?), while endless trains of men and 
guns have gone up past us. H.M. King George 
was in the restaurant car of one of them. We 
have been out all the morning, down to the grey 
and rolling sea, and have been celebrating Dec- 
ember ist by sitting on the embankment reading 
back numbers of * The Times,' and one of the 
C.S.'s and I have been painting enormous Red 
Crosses on the train. 

1 Punch ' comes regularly now and is devoured 
by our Mess. We are very like the apostles, and 
share everything from cakes and ' Spheres ' to 
remedies for " Jack Johnsons." Bread-and-butter 
doesn't happen-, alas ! 

6.30 p.m. — We've just caught up H.M. King 
George's train at St Omer, but he is evidently out 
dining with Sir John French. We are just along- 
side. He has red and blue curtains lining the 
bridges to keep his royal khaki shoulders from 
getting smutty. His chef has a grey beard. He 
is with Poincare. 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 127 

Wednesday, December 2nd. — We got to Chocques 
very late last night and are loading up this morn- 
ing, but only a few here ; we shall stop at Lillers 
and take more on. We went for our usual ex- 
ploring walk through seas of mud. There are 
more big motor-lorries here than I've seen any- 
where. We wandered past a place where Indians 
were busy killing and skinning goats — a horrible 
sight — to one of these chateaux where the staff 
officers have their headquarters : it was a lovely 
house in a very clean park ; there was a children's 
swing under the trees and we had some fine 
swings. 

Later. — Officers have been on the train on both 
places begging for newspapers and books. We 
save up our ' Punches ' and ■ Daily Mails ' and 
* Times ' for them, and give them any Sevenpennies 
we have to spare. They say at least forty people 
read each book, and they finish up in the 
trenches. 

H.M. King George was up here yesterday after- 
noon in a motor and gave three V.C.'s. 

We have only taken on 83 at the two places. 
There is so little doing anywhere — no guns have 
been heard for several days, and there is not much 
sickness. An officer asked for some mufflers for 
his Field Ambulance men, so I gave him the 
rest of the children's : the sailors on the armoured 
train had the first half. He came back with some 



i 2 8 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

pears for us. They are so awfully grateful for the 
things we give them that they like to bring us 
something in exchange. Seven men off a passing 
truck fell over each other getting writing-cases 
and chocolate to-day. They almost eat the writ- 
ing-cases with their joy. 

g p.m. — We filled up at St Omer from the three 
hospitals there. A great many cases of frost-bite 
were put on. They crawl on hands and knees, 
poor dears. Some left in hospital are very severe 
and have had to be amputated below the knee. 
Some of the toes drop off. I have one carriage 
of twenty-four Indians. A Sikh refused to sit in 
the same seat with a stout little major of the 
Gurkhas. I showed him a picture of Bobs, and 
he said at once, " Robert Sahib." They love the 
* Daily Mirrors ' with pictures of Indians. The 
Sikhs are rather whiney patients and very hard to 
please, but the little Gurkhas are absolute stoics, 
and the Bengal Lancers, who are Mohammedans, 
are splendid. 

Thursday, December 3rd. — We kept our load on 
all night, as we got in very late. I went to bed 
10.2 a.m., and then took all the train : unloaded 
directly after breakfast. Some men from Lan- 
cashire were rather interesting on the war; they 
thought it would do Europe so much good in the 
long-run. And the French might try and get their 






BRITISH AND INDIANS 129 

own back when they get into Germany, but " the 
British is too tender-'earted to do them things." 
They arranged that Belgium should have Berlin ! 
They all get very pitiful over the Belgian homes 
and desolation ; it seems to upset them much 
more than their own horrors in the trenches. A 
good deal of the fighting they talk about as if 
it was an exciting sort of football match, full of 
sells and tricks and chances. They roar with 
laughter at some of their escapes. 

There was no hospital ship in, which spells a 
bath or no bath to me, but I ramped round the 
town till I found a hotel which kindly supplied a 
fine bath for 1.75. And I found another and nicer 
English church and a Roman Catholic one. 

Grand mail when I came in — from home. 

Friday, December 4th. — Had a busy day loading 
at three places : just going to turn in as I have 
to be up at 2 A.M. ; we shall have the patients 
on all night. It is a fearful night, pouring and 
blowing. We have taken a tall white-haired 
Padre up with us this time : he wanted a trip to 
the Front. We happened to go to a place we 
hadn't been to before, in a coal-mining district. 
While we loaded he marched off to explore, and 
was very pleased at finding a well-shelled village 
and an unexploded shell stuck in a tree. It 
specially seemed to please him to find a church 

1 



130 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

shelled ! He has enjoyed talking to the crowds 
of men on the train on the way down. He lives 
and messes with us. We opened the Harrod's 
cake to-day; it is a beauty. The men were 
awfully pleased with the bull's-eyes, said they 
hadn't tasted a sweet for four months. 

One of the C.S. has just dug me out to see 
some terrific flashes away over the Channel, 
which he thinks is a naval battle. I think it is 
lightning. It was. The gale is terrific : must 
be giving the ships a doing. 

Saturday, December $th, 7 a.m. — We had a long 
stop on an embankment in the night, and at last 
the Chef de Gare from the next station came 
along the line and found both the French guards 
rolled up asleep and the engine-driver therefore 
hung up. Then he ran out of coal, and couldn't 
pull the train up the hill, so we had another four 
hours' wait while another engine was sent for. 
Got into B. at 6 a.m. ; bitterly cold and wet, and 
no chauffage. 

Sunday, December 6th. — A brilliant frosty day — 
on way up to Bailleul. We unloaded early at B. 
yesterday, and waited at a good place half-way 
between B. and Calais, a high down not far from 
the sea, with a splendid air. Some of the others 
went for a walk as we had no engine on, but I 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 131 

had been up since 2 a.m., and have hatched 
another bad cold, and so retired for a sleep till 
tea-time. 

Just got to Hazebrouck. Ten men and three 
women were killed and twenty wounded here 
this morning by a bomb. They are very keen 
on getting a good bag here, especially on the 
station, and for other reasons, as it is an 
important junction. 

4 p.m. — We have been up to B. and there were 
no patients for us, so we are to go back to the 
above bomb place to collect theirs. B. was 
packed with pale, war-worn, dirty but cheerful 
French troops entraining for their Front. They 
have been all through everything, and say they 
want to go on and get it finished. They carry 
fearful loads, including an extra pair of boots, a 
whole collection of frying-pans and things, and 
blankets, picks, &c, all on their backs. 

The British officers on the station came and 
grabbed our yesterday's ' Daily Mails,' and asked 
for soap, so what you sent came in handy. They 
went in to the town to buy grapes for us in 
return. This place is famous for grapes — huge 
monster purple ones — but the train went out 
before they came back. We had got some 
earlier, though. 

9 p.m. — We are nearly back at Boulogne and 
haven't taken up any sick or wounded anywhere. 






132 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

One of the trains has taken Indians from Boulogne 
down to Marseilles — several days' journey. 

Monday, December Jth. — Pouring wet day. Still 
standing by ; nothing doing anywhere. It is a 
blessed relief to know that, and the rest does no 
one any harm. Had a grand mail to-day. 

There is a heart-breaking account of my beau- 
tiful Yyres on page 8 of December ist ' Times.' 
There was a cavalry officer looking round the 
Cathedral with me that day the guns were bang- 
ing. I often wonder where the Belgian woman is 
who showed me the way and wanted my S.A. 
ribbons as a souvenir. She showed me a huge 
old painting on the wall of the Cathedral of 
Yyres in an earlier war. 

I all but got left in Boulogne to-day. We are 
dry-docked about five miles out, not far from 
Ambleteuse. 

It was bad luck not seeing the King. We 
caught him up at St Omer, and saw his train ; and 
from there he motored in front of us to all our 
places. Where we went, they said, " The King 
was here yesterday and gave V.C.'s." We haven't 
seen the " d — d good boy " either. 

Tuesday, December 8th. — Got up to Bailleul by 
ii a.m., and had a good walk on the line waiting 
to load up. Glorious morning. Aeroplanes 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 133 

buzzing overhead like bees, and dropping coloured 
signals about. Only rilled up my half of the 
train, both wounded and sick, including some 
very bad enterics. An officer in the trenches 
sent a man on a horse to get some papers from 
us. Luckily I had a batch of * The Times,' 
1 Spectator,' and ■ Punches.' 

We have come down very quickly, and hope to 
unload to-night, 9.30. 

Wednesday, December gth. — In siding at Boulogne 
all day. Pouring wet. 

Thursday, December 10th. — Left for Bailleul at 
8 a.m. Heard at St Omer of the sinking of the 
three German cruisers. 

Arrived at 2 p.m. Loaded up in the rain, 
wounded and sick — full load. They were men 
wounded last night, very muddy and trenchy ; 
said the train was like heaven ! It is lovely fun 
taking the sweets round; they are such an un- 
expected treat. The sitting -ups make many 
jokes, and say " they serve round 'arder sweets 
than this in the firing line — more explosive like." 

One showed us a fearsome piece of shell which 
killed his chum next to him last night. There is 
a good deal of dysentery about, and acute rheu- 
matism. The Clearing Hospitals are getting 
rather rushed again, and the men say we shall 



134 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

have a lot coming down in the next few days. 
A hundred men of one regiment got separated 
from their supports and came up against some 
German machine-guns in a wood with tragic 
results. We are shelling from Ypres, but there 
is no answering shelling going on just now, 
though the Taubes are busy. 

We are wondering what the next railhead will 
be, and when. Some charming H.A.C.'s are on 
the train this time, and a typically plucky lot of 
Tommies. One of the best of their many best 
features is their unfailing friendliness with each 
other. They never let you miss a man out with 
sweets or anything if he happens to be asleep or 
absent. 

Friday, December nth. — They wouldn't unload 
us at ii p.m. at Boulogne last night, but sent us 
on to the Duchess of Westminster's Hospital at 
a little place about twenty miles south of B., and 
we didn't unload till this morning. It was my 
turn for a whole night in bed. Not that this 
means we are having many nights up, but that 
when the load doesn't require two Sisters at 
night, two go to bed and the other two divide the 
night. After unloading we had a poke round the 
little fishing village, and of course the church. A 
company of Canadian Red Cross people unloaded 
us. The hospital has not been open very long. 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 135 

It was all sand-dunes and fir-trees on the way, 
very attractive, and cement factories. 

Mail in again. 

9 p.m. — We came back to B. to fill up with 
stores after lunch, and haven't been sent out 
again yet ; but we often go to bed here, and wake 
up and ask our soldier servants (batmen), who 
bring our jugs of hot water it the morning, where 
we are. I like the motion of the train in bed 
now, and you get used to the noise. 

Saturday, December 12th. — The French engine- 
drivers are so erratic that if you're long enough 
on the line it's only a question of time when you 
get your smash up. Ours came last night when 
they were joining us up to go out again. They 
put an engine on to each end of one-half of the 
train (not the one our car is in), and then did a 
tug-of-war. That wasn't a success, so they did 
the concertina touch, and put three coaches out 
of action, including the kitchen. So we're stuck 
here now (Boulogne) till Heaven knows when. 
Fortunately no casualties. 

Sunday, December 13th. — We've been hung up 
since Friday night by the three damaged trucks, 
and took the opportunity of getting some good 
walks yesterday, and actually going to church at 
the English church this morning. 



136 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Sister B. has been ordered to join the hospital ; 
she mobilised to-day, and we had to pack 
her off this morning. The staffs of the trains 
(which have all been shortened) have been put 
down from four to three. Very glad I wasn't 
taken off. 

We saw a line of graves with wooden crosses, 
in a field against the skyline, last journey. 

We have seen a lot of the skin coats that the 
men are getting now. Sheepskin, with any sort 
of fur or skin sleeves, just the skins sewn to- 
gether ; you may see a grey or white coat with 
brown or black fur or astrakhan sleeves. Some 
wear the fur inside and some outside; they 
simply love them. 

Reduced to pacing the platform in the dark 
and rain to get warm. It is 368 paces, so I've 
done it six times to well cover a mile, but it 
is not an exciting walk ! Funny thing, it seems 
in this war that for many departments you are 
either thoroughly overworked or entirely hung 
up, which is much worse. In things like the 
Pay Department or the Post-Office or the Pro- 
visioning for the A.S.C. it seldom gets off the 
overworked line, but in this and in the fight- 
ing line it varies very much. 

" The number of victims of the Taube 
attack on Hazebrouck on Monday is larger 
than was at first supposed. Five bombs 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 137 

were thrown and nine British soldiers and 
five civilians were killed, while 25 persons 
were injured." — * Times,' Dec. gth. 
We were at H. on that day. 

Monday, December 14th. — Got off at last at 
3.30 a.m. Loaded up 300 at Merville, a place 
we've only been to once before, near the coal- 
mines. Guns were banging only four miles off. 

Had a good many bad cases, medical and 
surgical, this time : kept one busy to the 
journey's end. We are unloaded to-night, so 
they will soon be well seen to, instead of going 
down to Rouen or Havre, which two other trains 
just in have got to do. 

We have a good many Gordons on ; one was 
hugging his bagpipes, and we had him up after 
dinner to play, which he did beautifully with a 
wrapt expression. 

We are going up again to-night. "Three 
trains wanted immediately " — been expecting 
that. 

Tuesday, December 15th. — We were unloaded 
last night at 9.30, and reported ready to go 
up again at 11 p.m., but they didn't move us 
till 5 a.m. Went to same place as yesterday, 
and cleared the Clearing Hospitals again ; some 
badly wounded, with wounds exposed and 



138 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

splints padded with straw as in the Ypres 
days. 

The Black Watch have got some cherub-faced 
boys of seventeen out now. The mud and floods 
are appalling. The Scotch regiments have lost 
their shoes and spats and wade barefoot in the 
water-logged trenches. This is a true fact. 

I'm afraid not a few of many regiments have 
got rheumatism — some acute — that they will 
never lose. 

The ploughed fields and roads are all more 
or less under water, and each day it rains 
more. 

We have got a Red Cross doctor on the train 
who was in the next village to the one we loaded 
from this morning. It has been taken and re- 
taken by both sides, and had a population of 
about 2000. The only living things he saw in 
it to-day besides a khaki supply column passing 
through were one cat and some goldfish. In 
one villa a big brass bedstead was hanging 
through the drawing-room ceiling by its legs, 
the clothes hanging in the cupboards were 
slashed up, and nothing left anywhere. He 
says at least ten well-to-do men of 50 are doing 
motor - ambulance work with their own Rolls- 
Royces up there, and cleaning their cars them- 
selves, at 6 a.m. 

I happened to ask a man, who is a stretcher- 






BRITISH AND INDIANS 139 

bearer belonging to the Rifle Brigade, how he 
got hit. " Oh, I was carrying a dead man," he 
said modestly. " My officer told me not to move 
him till dark, because of the sniping; but his 
face was blown off by an explosive bullet, and 
I didn't think it would do the chaps who had 
to stand round him all day any good, so I put 
him on my back, and they copped me in the 
leg. I was glad he wasn't a wounded man, 
because I had to drop him." 

He told me some French ladies were killed 
in their horse -and -cart on the road near their 
trenches the other day; they would go and try 
and get some of their household treasures. Two 
were killed — two and a man — and the horse 
wounded. He helped to take them to the 
R.A.M.C. dressing-station. 

Wednesday, December 16th. — We are on our 
way up again to-day, and by a different and 
much jollier way, to St Omer, going south of 
Boulogne and across country, instead of up by 
Calais. We came back this way with patients 
from Ypres once. It is longer, but the country 
is like Hampshire Downs, instead of the ever- 
lasting flat swamps the other way. Of course 
it is raining. 

6 p.m. — For once we waited long enough at 
St Omer to go out and explore the beautiful 



140 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

ruined Abbey near the station. We went up 
the town — very clean compared with the towns 
farther up — swarming with grey touring-cars 
and staff officers. Headquarters of every arm 
labelled on different houses, and a huge church 
the same date as the Abbey, with some good 
carving and glass in it. We kept an eye open 
for Sir J. F. and the P. ofW., but didn't meet 
them. Saw the English military church where 
Lord Roberts began his funeral service. For 
once it wasn't raining. 

Thursday, December ljth. — Left St O. at n p.m. 
last night, and woke up this morning at Bailleul. 
Saw two aeroplanes being fired at, — black smoke- 
balls bursting in the air. Heard that Hartlepool 
and Scarboro' have been shelled — just the bare 
fact — in last night's ' Globe.' R. will have an 
exciting time. We're longing to get back for 
to-day's ' Daily Mail.' 

There has been a lot of fighting in our advance 
south-east of Ypres since Sunday. 

The Gordons made a great bayonet charge, 
but lost heavily in officers and men in half an 
hour ; we have some on the train. The French 
also lost heavily, and lie unburied in hundreds ; 
but the men say the Germans were still more 
badly " punished." They tell us that in the 
base hospitals they never get a clean wound ; 



BRITISH AND INDIANS 141 

even the emergency amputations and trephin- 
ings and operations done in the Clearing Hos- 
pitals are septic, and no one who knew the 
conditions would wonder at it. We shall all 
forget what aseptic work is by the time we get 
home. The anti- tetanus serum injection that 
every wounded man gets with his first dressing 
has done a great deal to keep the tetanus under, 
and the spreading gangrene is less fatal than it 
was. It is treated with incisions and injections 
of H 2 2 , or, when necessary, amputation in 
case of limbs. You suspect it by the grey 
colour of the face and by another sense, before 
you look at the dressing. 

At B. a man at the station greeted me, and 
it was my old theatre orderly at No. 7 Pretoria. 
We were very pleased to see each other. I fitted 
him out with a pack of cards, post-cards, acid 
drops, and a nice grey pair of socks. 

A wounded officer told us he was giving out 
the mail in his trench the night before last, 
and nearly every man had either a letter or 
a parcel. Just as he finished a shell came and 
killed his sergeant and corporal ; if they hadn't 
had their heads out of the trench at that mo- 
ment for the mail, neither of them would have 
been hit. The officer could hardly get through 
the story for the tears in his eyes. 






VI. 



On No. — Ambulance Train (4) 

CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR 
ON THE TRAIN 

December 18, 1914, to January 3, 1915 



Judge of the passionate hearts of men,' 
God of the wintry wind and snow, 
Take back the blood-stained year again, 
Give us the Christmas that we know." 

— F. G. Scott, 

Chaplain -with the Canadians. 



VI. 



On No. — Ambulance Train (4). 

CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR 
ON THE TRAIN. 

December 18, 1914, to January 3, 1915. 

The Army and the King — Mufflers — Christmas Eve — 
Christmas on the train — Princess Mary's present — 
The trenches in winter — " A typical example " — New 
Year's Eve at Rouen — The young officers. 

Friday, December 18th, 10.30 a.m. — We've had 
an all-night journey to Rouen, and have almost 
got there. One of my sitting-ups was 106 this 
morning, but it was only malaria, first typical 
one I have met since S.A. A man who saw the 
King when he was here said, "They wouldn't 
let him come near the trenches ; if a shell had 
come and hit him I think the Army would 'a 
gone mad; there'd be no keeping 'em in the 
trenches after that." 

This place before Rouen is Darnetal, a beauti- 
ful spiry town in a valley, pronounced by the 
Staff of No. — A.T. "Darn it all," 

K 



146 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

6 p.m. — We unloaded by 12, and had just had 
time to go out and get a bath at the best baths 
in France. 

Shipped a big cargo of J.J. this journey, but 
luckily made no personal captures. 

Got to sleep this afternoon, as I was on duty 
all yesterday and up to 2 a.m. this morning. 

Pouring cats and dogs as usual. 

No time to see the Cathedrals. 

We had this time a good many old seasoned 
experienced men of the Regular Army, who had 
been through all the four months (came out in 
August). They are very strong on the point of 
mixing Territorials (and K.'s Army where it is 
not composed of old service men) and Indians 
well in with men like themselves. 

One Company of R.E. lost all its officers in 
one day in a charge. A H.L.I, man gave a 
chuckling account of how they got to fighting 
the Prussian Guard with their fists at Wypers 
because they were at too close quarters to get in 
with their bayonets. They really enjoyed it, and 
the Germans didn't. 

Saturday, igth. — We are dry-docked to-day at 
Sotteville, outside Rouen. Z. and I half walked 
and half trammed into Rouen this morning. 

It is lovely to get out of the train. This after- 
noon No. — played a football match against the 



CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 147 

Khaki train and got well beaten. They've only 
been in the country six weeks, and only do about 
one journey every eight days, so they are in 
better training than ours, but it will do them a 
lot of good : we looked on. 

Sunday, 20th, 6 p.m. — At last we are on our way 
back to Boulogne and mails, and the News of 
the War at Home and Abroad. At Rouen, or 
rather the desert four miles outside it, we only 
see the paper of the day before, and we miss our 
mails; and have no work since unloading on 
Friday. This morning was almost a summer 
day, warm, still, clear and sunny. We went for 
a walk, and then got on with painting the red 
crosses on the train, which can only be done on 
fine days, of which we've had few. The men 
were paraded, and then sent route - marching, 
which they much enjoyed. It was possible, as 
word was sent that the train was not going out 
till 1.30. It did, however, move at 12, which 
shows how little you can depend on it, even when 
a time is given. They had a mouth-organ and 
sang all the way. 

Monday, December 21st. — Got to Boulogne early 
this morning after an exceptionally rackety 
journey, all one's goods and chattels dropping 
on one's head at intervals during the night. 



148 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Engine-driver rather ivre, I should think. Off 
again at 10.30 a.m. 

Mail in. 

Weather appallingly cold and no chauffage. 

On way up to Chocques, where we shall take up 
Indians again. How utterly miserable Indians 
must be in this eternal wet and cold. The fields 
and land generally are all half under water again. 
We missed the last two days' papers, and so have 
heard nothing of the war at home, except that 
the casualties are over 60,000. Five mufflers went 
this afternoon to five men on a little isolated 
station on the way here. When I said to the 
first boy, " Have you got a muffler?" he thought 
I wanted one for some one on the train. 

" Well, it's not a real muffler ; it's my sleeping- 
,cap," he said, beginning to pull it off his neck ; 
" but you're welcome to it if it's any use ! " 

What do you think of that ? He got pink with 
pleasure over a real muffler and some cigarettes. 
You start with two men ; when you come back 
in a minute with the mufflers the two have in- 
creased to five silent expectant faces. 

Wednesday, 23rd. — We loaded up at Lillers late 
on Monday night with one of the worst loads 
we've ever taken, all wounded, half Indians and 
half British. 

You will see by Tuesday's French communiques 









CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 149 

that some of our trenches had been lost, and 
these had been retaken by the H.L.I., Man- 
chesters, and 7th D.G.'s. 

It was a dark wet night, and the loading people 
were half-way up to their knees in black mud, 
and we didn't finish loading till 2 a.m., and were 
hard at it trying to stop haemorrhage, &c, till we 
got them off the train at n yesterday morning; 
the J.J.'s were swarming, but a large khaki pinny 
tying over my collar, and with elastic wristbands, 
saved me this time. One little Gurkha with his 
arm just amputated, and a wounded leg, could 
only be pacified by having acid drops put into 
his mouth and being allowed to hug the tin. 

Another was sent on as a sitting -up case. 
Half-way through the night I found him gasping 
with double pneumonia ; it was no joke nursing 
him with seven others in the compartment. He 
only just lived to go off the train. 

Another one I found dead about 5.30 a.m. We 
were to have been sent on to Rouen, but the O.C. 
Train reported too many serious cases, and so 
they were taken off at B. It was a particularly 
bad engine-driver too. 

I got some bath water from a friendly engine, 
and went to bed at 12 next day. 

We were off again the same evening, and got to 
B. this morning, train full, but not such bad cases, 
and are on our way back again now: expect to 



150 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

be sent on to Rouen. Now we are three instead of 
four Sisters, it makes the night work heavier, but 
we can manage all right in the day. In the last 
journey some of the worst cases got put into the 
top bunks, in the darkness and rush, and one 
only had candles to do the dressings by. One 
of the C.S.'s was on leave, but has come back 
now. All the trains just then had bad loads : 
the Clearing Hospitals were overflowing. 

The Xmas Cards have come, and I'm going to 
risk keeping them till Friday, in case we have 
patients on the train. If not, I shall take them 
to a Sister I know at one of the B. hospitals. 

We have got some H.A.C. on this time, who 
try to stand up when you come in, as if you were 
coming into their drawing-room. The Tommies 
in the same carriage are quite embarrassed. One 
boy said just now, "We 'ad a 'appy Xmas last 
year." 

"Where?" I said. 

"At 'ome, 'long o' Mother," he said, beaming. 

Xmas Eve, 1914. — And no fire and no chauf- 
fage, and cotton frocks ; funny life, isn't it ? And 
the men are crouching in a foot of water in 
the trenches and thinking of " 'ome, 'long 
o' Mother," — British, Germans, French, and 
Russians. We are just up at Chocques going 
to load up with Indians again. Had more 



CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 151 

journeys this week than for a long time; you 
just get time to get what sleep the engine- 
driver and the cold will allow you on the 
way up. 

8 p.m. — Just nearing Boulogne with another 
bad load, half Indian, half British ; had it in 
daylight for the most part, thank goodness ! 
Railhead to-day was one station further back 

than last time, as the Headquarters had to 

be evacuated after the Germans got through on 
Sunday. The two regiments, Coldstream Guards 
and Camerons, who drove them back, lost heavily 
and tell a tragic story. There are two men (only 
one is a boy) on the train who got wounded on 
Monday night (both compound fracture of the 
thigh) and were only taken out of the trench this 
morning, Thursday, to a Dressing Station and 
then straight on to our train. (We heard the 
guns this morning.) Why they are alive I don't 
know, but I'm afraid they won't live long : they 
are sunken and grey-faced and just strong enough 
to say, "Anyway, I'm out of the trench now." 
They had drinks of water now and then in the 
field but no dressings, and lay in the slush. 
Stretcher-bearers are shot down immediately, 
with or without the wounded, by the German 
snipers. 

And this is Christmas, and the world is sup- 
posed to be civilised. They came in from the 



152 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

trenches to-day with blue faces and chattering 
teeth, and it was all one could do to get them 
warm and fed. By this evening they were most 
of them revived enough to enjoy Xmas cards ; 
there were such a nice lot that they were able to 
choose them to send to Mother and My Young 
Lady and the Missis and the Children, and have 
one for themselves. 

The Indians each had one, and salaamed and 
said, U God save you," and " I will pray to God 
for you," and " God win your enemies," and 
" God kill many Germans," and " The Indian 
men too cold, kill more Germans if not too 
cold." One with a S.A. ribbon spotted mine 
and said, "Africa same like you." 

Midnight. — Just unloaded, going to turn in ; 
we are to go off again at 5 a.m. to-morrow, so 
there'll be no going to church. Mail in, but 
not parcels ; there's a big block of parcels down 
at the base, and we may get them by Easter. 

With superhuman self-control I have not 
opened my mail to-night so as to have it to- 
morrow morning. 

Xmas Day, 11 a.m. — On way up again to 
Bethune, where we have not been before (about 
ten miles beyond where we were yesterday), a 
place I've always hoped to see. Sharp white 
frost, fog becoming denser as we get nearer 



CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 153 

Belgium. A howling mob of reinforcements 
stormed the train for smokes. We threw out 
every cigarette, pipe, pair of socks, mits, hankies, 
pencils we had left ; it was like feeding chickens, 
but of course we hadn't nearly enough. 

Every one on the train has had a card from 
the King and Queen in a special envelope with 
the Royal Arms in red on it. And this is the 
message (in writing hand) — 

" With our best wishes for 
Christmas, 19 14. 

May God protect you and 
bring you home safe. 

Mary R. George R.I." 

That is something to keep, isn't it ? 

An officer has just told us that those men 
haven't had a cigarette since they left S'hampton, 
hard luck. I wish we'd had enough for them. It- 
is the smokes and the rum ration that has helped 
the British Army to stick it more than anything, 
after the conviction that they've each one got 
that the Germans have got to be " done in " in 
the end. A Sergt. of the C.G. told me a cheer- 
ing thing yesterday. He said he had a draft of 
young soldiers of only four months' service in this 
week's business. " Talk of old soldiers," he said, 
" you'd have thought these had had years of it. 



154 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

When they were ordered to advance there was 
no stopping them." 

After all we are not going to Bethune but to 
Merville again. 

This is a very slow journey up, with long 
indefinite stops ; we all got bad headaches by 
lunch time from the intense cold and a short 
night following a heavy day. At lunch we had 
hot bricks for our feet, and hot food inside, which 
improved matters, and I think by the time we 
get the patients on there will be chauffage. 

The orderlies are to have their Xmas dinner 
to-morrow, but I believe ours is to be to-night, 
if the patients are settled up in time. 

Do not think from these details that we are at 
all miserable; we say " For King and Country" 
at intervals, and have many jokes over it all, and 
there is the never-failing game of going over what 
we'll all do and avoid doing After the War. 

7 p.m. — Loaded up at Merville and now on the 
way back ; not many badly wounded but a great 
many minor medicals, crocked up, nothing much 
to be done for them. We may have to fill up at 
Hazebrouck, which will interrupt the very festive 
Xmas dinner the French Staff are getting ready 
for us. It takes a man, French or British, to 
take decorating really seriously. The orderlies 
have done wonders with theirs. Aeroplanes done 
in cotton-wool on brown blankets is one feature. 



CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 155 

This lot of patients had Xmas dinner in their 
Clearing Hospitals to-day, and the King's Xmas 
card, and they will get Princess Mary's present. 
Here they finished up D.'s Xmas cards and had 
oranges and bananas, and hot chicken broth 
directly they got in. 

12 Midnight. — Still on the road. We had a 
very festive Xmas dinner, going to the wards 
which were in charge of nursing orderlies between 
the courses. Soup, turkey, peas, mince pie, plum 
pudding, chocolate, champagne, absinthe, and 
coffee. Absinthe is delicious, like squills. We 
had many toasts in French and English. The 
King, the President, Absent Friends, Soldiers and 
Sailors, and I had the Blesses and the Malades. 
We got up and clinked glasses with the French 
Staff at every toast, and finally the little chef 
came in and sang to us in a very sweet musical 
tenor. Our great anxiety is to get as many 
orderlies and N.C.O.'s as possible through the 
day without being run in for drunk, but it is 
an uphill job; I don't know where they get it. 

We are wondering what the chances are of 
getting to bed to-night. 

4 a.m. — Very late getting in to B. ; not unload- 
ing till morning. Just going to turn in now till 
breakfast time. End of Xmas Day. 

Saturday, December 26th. — Saw my lambs off the 






156 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

train before breakfast. One man in the War- 
wicks had twelve years' service, a wife and two 
children, but " when Kitchener wanted more 
men " he re-joined. This week he got an ex- 
plosive bullet through his arm, smashing it up 
to rags above the elbow. He told me he got a 
man "to tie the torn muscles up," and then 
started to crawl out, dragging his arm behind 
him. After some hours he came upon one of 
his own officers wounded, who said, "Good 
God, sonny, you'll be bleeding to death if we 
don't get you out of this ; catch hold of me and 
the Chaplain." " So 'e cuddled me, and I 
cuddled the Chaplain, and we got as far as 
the doctor." 

At the Clearing H. his arm was taken off 
through the shoulder-joint, but I'm afraid it is 
too late. He is now a pallid wreck, dying of 
gangrene. But he would discuss the War, and 
when it would end, and ask when he'd be strong 
enough to sit up and write to that officer, and 
apologised for wanting drinks so often. He is 
one of the most top-class gallant gentlemen it's 
ever been my jolly good luck to meet. And there 
are hundreds of them. 

We had Princess Mary's nice brass box this 
morning. The V.A.D. here brought a present to 
every man on the train this morning, and to the 
orderlies. They had 25,000 to distribute, cigar- 



CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 157 

ette - cases, writing - cases, books, pouches, &c. 
The men were frightfully pleased, it was so un- 
expected. The processions of hobbling, doubled- 
up, silent, muddy, sitting-up cases who pour out 
of the trains want something to cheer them up, 
as well as the lying-downs. It is hard to believe 
they are the fighting men, now they've handed 
their rifles and bandoliers in. (It is snowing fast.) 
We have to go and drink the men's health at 
their spread at 1 o'clock. Then I hope a spell 
of sleep. 

We have chauffage on to-day to thaw the 
froidage ; the pipes are frozen. 

6 p.m. — We all processed to the Orderlies' Mess 
truck and the O.C. made a speech, and the Q.M.S. 
dished out drinks for us to toast with, and we had 
the King and all of ourselves with great en- 
thusiasm. Mr T. had to propose " The Sisters," 
and after a few trembling, solemn words about 
" we all know the good work they do," he 
suddenly giggled hopelessly, and it ended in a 
healthy splodge all round. Orders just come to 
be at St Omer by 10 p.m. If that means loading- 
up further on about 1 a.m. I think we shall all 
die! Too noisy here to sleep this afternoon. 
And the men are just now so merry with 
Tipperary, and dressing up, that they will surely 
drop the patients off the stretchers, but we'll hope 
for the best. 



158 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Sunday, December 2jth. — Had a grand night 
last night. Woke up at Bethune. Went out 
after breakfast and saw over No. — CI. H., 
which has only been there 48 hours, in a huge 
Girls' College, partly smashed by big shell holes, 
an awful mess, but the whole parts are being 
turned into a splendid hospital. Several houses 
shelled, and big guns shaking the train this 
morning. 

The M.O.'s went to the Orderlies' Concert 
last night, when we went to bed. It was ex- 
cellent, and nobody was drunk ! We are taking 
on a full load of lying-downs straight from three 
Field Ambulances, so we shall be very busy ; not 
arrived yet. 

6 p.m. — Nearing Boulogne. 

I have one little badly wounded Gurkha (who 
keeps ejaculating "Gerrman"), and all the rest 
British, some very badly frost - bitten. The 
trenches are in a frightful state. One man said, 
" There's almost as many men drowned as killed : 
when they're wounded they fall into the water." 
Of three officers (one of whom is on the train and 
tells the story) in a deep-water trench for two 
days, one was drowned, the other had to have his 
clothes cut off him (stuck fast to the mud) and 
be pulled out naked, and the other is invalided 
with rheumatism. 

Two men were telling me how they caught a 



CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 159 

sniper established in a tree, with a thousand 
rounds of ammunition and provisions. He asked 
for mercy, but he didn't get it, they said. He 
had just shot two stretcher-bearers. 

Monday, December 28th. — This trip to Rouen 
will give us a longer journey up, and therefore 
some more time. And we shall get another 
bath. 

The following story is a typical example of 
what the infantry often have to endure. It was 
told to me by the Sergeant. Three men of the 
S.W. Borderers and five of the Welsh Regt. on 
advancing to occupy a trench found themselves 
cut off, with a 2nd Lieut. He advanced alone 
to reconnoitre and was probably shot, they said 
— they never saw him again. So the Sergt. of 
the W.R. (aged 22 !) took command and led them 
for safety, still under fire, to a ditch with one foot 
of water in it. This was on the Monday night 
before Xmas. They stayed in it all Tuesday and 
Tuesday night, when it was snowing. Before 
daylight he "skirmished" them to a trench he 
knew of two hundred yards in advance, where 
he had seen one of his regiment the day before. 
This was in water above their knees. He showed 
me the mud-line on his trousers. 

This turned out to be one of the German com- 
munication trenches. They stayed in that all 



160 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Wednesday, Wednesday night, and Thursday, 
living on some biscuit one man had, some bits 
of chocolate, and drinking the dirty trench water, 
in which was a dead German dressed as a Gurkha. 
" We was prayin' all the time," said one of them. 
Then one ventured out to get water and was shot. 
On Xmas Eve night it froze hard, and they were 
so weak and starved and numb that the Sergt. 
decided that they couldn't stick it any longer, so 
they cast their equipment and made a dash for a 
camp fire they could see. 

One of them is an old grey-haired Reservist 
with seven children. By good luck they struck 
a road which led them to some Coldstreams' 
billet, a house. There they were fed with tea, 
bread, bacon, and jam, and stayed an hour, but 
didn't get dried. 

Then these C.G.'s had to go into action, and 
the Sergt. took them on to some Grenadier 
Guards' billet. By this time he and one other 
had to be carried by the others. There they 
stayed the night (Xmas Day) and saw the M.O.'s 
of a Field Ambulance, who sent them all into 
hospital at Bethune, whence we took them on 
this train to Rouen, all severely frost-bitten, weak, 
and rheumatic. 

An infant boy of nineteen was telling me how 
he killed a German of 6 ft. 3 in. " Bill," I says, 
" there's one o' them big devils (only I called him 






CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 161 

worse than that," he said politely to me), " and we 
all three emptied our rifles into him, and he never 
moved again." 

9 p.m. — At Sotteville, off Rouen. We got un- 
loaded at i p.m. and then made a dash for the 
best baths in France. 

Tuesday, December 2gth. — We've had a quite 
useful day off to-day. Still at Sotteville ; had a 
walk this morning, also got through arrears of 
mending and letter-writing. They played another 
football match this afternoon, and did much 
better than last time, but still got beaten. 

Wednesday, December ?oth. — Still at Sotteville. 
One of our coaches is off being repaired here, and 
goodness knows how long we shall be stuck. 

Had a walk this morning along the line. The 
train puffed past me on its way to Rouen for 
water. I tried to make the engine-driver stop 
by spreading myself out in front of the engine, 
but he "shooed" me out of the way, and after 
some deliberation I seized a brass rail and leapt 
on to the footboard about half-way down the 
train ; it wasn't at all difficult after all. We had 
Seymour Hicks' lot tacked on behind us; they are 
doing performances for the Hospitals and Rest- 
camps in Rouen to-day, but unfortunately we are 
too far out to go in. 

L 



162 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Thursday, December 3is£, New Year's Eve. — Still 
at Sotteville, and clemmed with cold. There 
was no paraffin on the train this morning, so we 
couldn't even have the passage lamps lit. 

This afternoon I went with Major and the 

French Major and the little fat French Caporal 
(who is the same class as the French Major — or 
better) into Rouen, and they trotted us round 
sight-seeing. The little Caporal showed us all 
the points of the cathedrals, and the twelfth- 
century stone pictures on the north porch and on 
the towers, and also the church of St Maclou with 
the wonderful " Ossuare " cloisters, now a college 
for Jeunes Filles. We had tea in the town and 
trammed back. This evening, New Year's Eve, 
the French Staff had decorated the Restaurant 
with Chinese lanterns, and we had a festive New 
Year's Eve dinner, with chicken, and Xmas 
pudding on fire, and Sauterne and Champagne 
and crackers. The putting on of caps amused 
every one infinitnent, and we had more speeches 
and toasts. I forgot to tell you that the French 
Major's home is broken up by Les Allemands, 
and he doesn't know where his wife and three 
children are. On Xmas night, during toasts, he 
suddenly got up and said in a broken voice, " A 
mes petits enfants et ma femme." 

The coach is mended and back from Vatelier, 
and we may go off at any moment, I hope we 



CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ON TRAIN 163 

shall wake up on the way to Boulogne and 
mails. 

New Year's Day, 1915, Rouen, — A Happy New 
Year to us all ! We are not off yet, and several 
other trains are doing nothing here. We came 
into Rouen this afternoon, and heard that we are 
to clear the hospitals here to-morrow, and take 
them down to Havre. 

Thank goodness we are to move at last. Went 
for a walk in the town after tea, and after dinner 
the O.C. and Sister B. and one of the Civil 
Surgeons and the French Major and I went to 
the cinema. It was excellent, or we thought it 
so, after the months of train and nothing else. 

Saturday, January 2nd, 12 noon. — Just loading 
up for Havre with many of the same men we 
brought down from B6thune on Sunday ; it seems 
as if we might just as well have taken them 
straight down to Havre. They look clean now, 
and have lost the trench look. 

Have been asked to say how extra -excellent 
the Xmas cake was ; we finished it yesterday, 
ditto the Tiptree jam. 

It is a week on Monday since we had any 
mails. 

There is a Major of ours on the train, getting a 
lift to Havre, who is specialist in pathology, and 



164 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

he has been investigating the bacillus of malig- 
nant oedema and of spreading gangrene. They 
are hunting anaerobes (Sir Almroth Wright at 
Boulogne and a big French Professor in Paris) 
for a vaccine against this, which has been per- 
sistently fatal. This man knew of two cases 
who were, as he puts it, " good cases for dying," 
and therefore good cases for trying his theory on. 
Both got well, began to recover within eight 
hours. And one of them was my re -enlisted 
Warwickshire man with the arm amputated, who 
was got out by the wounded officer and the 
Padre. 

January 3rd. — A sergeant we took down to 
Havre yesterday told me of his battalion's very 
heavy losses. He said out of the 1400 of all 
ranks he came out with, there are now only 
5 sergeants, 1 officer, and 72 men left. He said 
the young officers won't take cover — "they get 
too excited and won't listen to people who've 'ad 
a little experience." One would keep putting his 
head out of the trench because he hadn't seen 
a German. " I kept tellin' of him," said the 
sergeant, " but of course he got 'it ! " 



VII. 



On No. — Ambulance Train (5) 

WINTER ON THE TRAIN AND 
IN THE TRENCHES 

January 7, 1915, to February 6, 1915 



"The winter and the dark last long: 
Grief grows and dawn delays : 
Make we our sword-arm doubly strong - , 

And lift on high our gaze ; 
And stanch we deep the hearts that weep, 
And touch our lips with praise." 

— Anon. 



VII. 

On No. — Ambulance Train (5). 

WINTER ON THE TRAIN AND 
IN THE TRENCHES. 

January 7, 1915, to February 6, 1915. 

The Petit Vitesse siding — Uncomplainingness of Tommy 
— Painting the train — A painful convoy — The 
" Yewlan's " watch — " Officer dressed in bandages " 
— Sotteville — Versailles — The Palais Trianon — A 
walk at Rouen — The German view, and the English 
view — ' Punch ' — " When you return Conqueror " — 
K.'s new Army. 

Thursday, January yth. — We moved out of Bou- 
logne about 4 a.m., and reached Merville (with 
many long waits) at 2 p.m. Loaded up there, 
and filled up at Hazebrouck on way back. Many 
cases of influenza with high temperatures, also 
rheumatisms and bad feet, very few wounded. 
When they got the khaki hankies they said, 
" Khaki ? that's extra ! " 

9.30 p.m. — We have 318 on board this time, 



168 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 



including four enterics, four diphtherias, and 
eighteen convalescent scarlets (who caught it 
from their billet). A quiet-looking little man has 
a very fine new German officer's helmet and 
sword. " He gave it to me," he said. " I had 
shot him through the lung. I did the wound up 
as best I could and tried to save him, but he died. 
He was coming for me with his sword." Seems 
funny to first shoot a man and then try to mop it 
up. The Germans don't ; they finish you off. 

An officer on the train told me how another 
officer and twenty-five men were told off to go 
and take a new trench which had been dug in 
the night. Instead of the few they expected they 
found it packed with Germans, all asleep. " It's 
not a pretty story," he said, "but you can't go 
first and tell them you're coming when you are 
outnumbered three to one." They had to bayonet 
every one of those sleeping Germans, and killed 
every one without losing a man. 

All my half of the train had khaki hankies and 
sweets; they simply loved them. They are all, 
except the infectious cases, just out of the 
trenches, and such things make them absurdly 
happy ; you would hardly believe it. I am keep- 
ing the writing-cases and bull's-eyes for the next 
lot. There were just enough mufflers to muffle 
the chilly necks of those who hadn't already got 
them. 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 169 

The wet has outwetted itself all day — it 
must be a record flood everywhere. We shall 
not unload to-night, so I had better think 
about turning in, as I have the third watch at 
4 A.M. 

I found some lovely eau - de - Cologne and 
shampoo powders from R. among the mufflers, 
and a pet aluminium candlestick from G. Such 
things give a Sister on an A.T. absurd pleasure ; 
you'd hardly believe it. 

Friday, January Sth. — Still pouring. We un- 
loaded by g a.m., got our mail in. My ward- 
master was so drunk to-night that the Q.M.S. 
had to send for the O.C. And he had just got 
his corporal's stripe. He was a particular ally of 
mine and was in South Africa. 

We are in that foulest of all homes for lost 
trains to-day, the Petit Vitesse siding out of B. 
station, with the filth of all the ages around, 
about, and below us. You have to shut your 
window to keep out the smell of burning garbage 
and other horrors. 

It is nearly three months since I sat in a chair, 
except at meals, and that is only a flap-down seat, 
or saw a fire, except the pails of coke the 
Tommies have on the lines. 

I expect we shall be off again to-night 
somewhere. 



170 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Saturday, January gth. — Did you see the H.A.C.'s 
story of the frozen Tommy who asked them to 
warm his hands, and then seeing they were on 
their way to his trench hastily explained that he 
was all right — only a bit numb. One thing one 
notices about them is that they have an enormous 
tolerance for each other and never seem to want 
to quarrel. They take infinite pains in the night 
not to wake each other in moving over the heaps 
of legs and arms sprawled everywhere, and will 
keep in cramped positions for hours rather than 
risk touching some one else's painful feet or hand. 
If you want to improve matters they say, " I shall 
be all right, Sister, it might jog his foot." They 
never let you miss any one out in giving things 
round, and always call your attention to any one 
they think needs it, but not to themselves. It is 
very funny how they won't fuss about themselves, 
and in consequence you often find things out too 
late. Last journey a man with asthma and 
bronchitis was, unfortunately as it turned out, 
given a top bunk, as he was considered too bad 
to be a sitting-up case. At 6 a.m. I found him 
looking very tired and miserable sitting on the 
edge ; " I can't lie down," he said, " with this 
cough." When I put him in a sitting-up corner 
below, he said, " I could a'slep' all night like 
this ! " It had never occurred to him to ask to 
be changed. They get so used to discomfort that 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 171 

they "stay put" and never utter. We had missed 
his distress (in the 318 we had on board), and 
they were sleeping on the floors of the corridors, 
so the middle bunks were very difficult to get at. 
Any of them would have changed with him. This 
happens several times on every journey, but you 
can't get them to fuss. The Germans and the 
Sikhs begin to clamour for something directly they 
are on the train, and keep it up till they go off. 

Another typical instance (though not a pretty 
one) of Tommy's reluctance to complain occurred 
on the last journey. I came on one compartment 
full, busily engaged in collecting JJ.'s off one 
man in the middle, with a candle to see by. His 
blanket, I found, was swarming, and it was ours, 
not his, one of a lot taken on at Rouen as " dis- 
infected " ! (For one ghastly moment I thought 
it might be the compartment where I'd spent a 
good half-hour doing up their feet, but it wasn't.) 
I had the blanket hurled out of the window, and 
they then slept. But they weren't going to 
complain about it. 

There was one jovial old boy of 60 with rows 
of ribbons. He had three sons in the Army, and 
when they went " he wasn't going to be left 
behind," so he re-enlisted. 

Sunday, January 10th. — Woke up at Bailleul, 
sun shining for once, and everything — floods and 



172 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

all — looking lovely all the way down. Loaded up 
early and got down to B. by 4 p.m. to hear that 
we are to go on to Rouen — another all-night 
touch. We have put off the fourteen worst cases 
at B., and are now on our way to R. This is the 
first time we have shipped Canadians, P.P.C.L.I., 
the only regiment as yet in the fighting line. 
They are oldish men who have nearly all seen 
service before, many in South Africa. 

Lots more wounded this time. Some S.L.I. 
got badly caught in a wood; they've just come 
from India. 

When I took the Devonshire toffee round, a 
little doubtful whether the H.A.C.'s would not be 
too grand for it, one of them started up, " Oh, by 
George, not really ! " 

We have a boy on board with no wound and 
no disease, but quite mad, poor boy ; he has to 
have a special orderly on him. 

Monday morning , January nth, Rouen. — The ap- 
proach to Rouen at six o'clock on a pitch-dark, 
wet, and starlight morning, with the lights twink- 
ling on the hills and on the river, and in the old 
wet streets, is a beautiful sight. 

My mad boy has been very quiet all night. 

Tuesday, January 12th. — At S. all day. By some 
mistake it hasn't rained all day, so we took the 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 173 

opportunity to get on with painting the train. 
We worked all the morning and afternoon and 
got a lot done, and it looks very smart : huge red 
crosses on white squares in the middle of each 
coach, and the number of the ward in figures a 
foot long at each end : this on both sides of the 
coaches. We Have done not quite half the 
coaches, and are praying that it won't rain before 
it dries; if it does, the result is pitiable. The 
orderlies have been shining up the brass rails and 
paraffining the outside of the train, and have also 
played and won a football match against No. 1 
A.T. 

Wednesday, January 13th. — Woke at Abbeville ; 
now on the way to Boulogne, where I hope we 
shall have time to get mails. 

5 p.m. — We went through Boulogne without 
stopping, and got no mails in consequence ; nor 
could we pick up P., who has been on ninety-six 
hours' leave. We have been on the move practi- 
cally without stopping since 11 p.m. last night, 
and are just getting to Bethune, the place we 
went to two days after Christmas, where we were 
quite near the guns, and went over the CI. H. 
which had been shelled. Expect to take wounded 
up here. The country is wetter than ever — it 
looks one vast swamp. Of course the rain has 
spoilt our lovely paint ! 



174 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Thursday, January 14th. — We picked up a load 
in the dark and wet, with some very badly 
wounded, who kept us busy from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. 
without stopping. Some were caked with mud 
exactly to their necks ! One told me he got hit 
trying to dig out three of his section who were 
half buried by an exploded coal-box. When he 
got hit, they were left, and eventually got finished 
by our own guns. Another lot of eleven were 
buried likewise, and are there still, but were all 
killed instantaneously. One man with part of his 
stomach blown away and his right thigh smashed 
was trying to get a corporal of his regiment in, 
but the corporal died when he got there, and he 
got it as well. He was smiling and thanking all 
night, and saying how comfortable he was. 
Another we had to put off at St Omer, on the off 
chance of saving his life. He was made happy 
by two tangerine oranges. 

Many of the sitting -ups have no voice, and 
they cough all night. We unloaded this morn- 
ing, got a sleep this afternoon, and are now, 
5 p.m., on our way up again. The Clearing 
Hospitals are overflowing as of old, and like 
the Field Ambulances have more than they can 
cope with. We have to re - dress the septic 
things with H 2 2 , which keeps them going till 
they can be specially treated at the base. Some 
of the enterics are very bad ; train journeys are 



WIN! ER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 175 

not ideal treatment for enteric haemorrhage, but 
it has to be done. Two of my orderlies are 
very good with them, and take great care of 
their mouths, and know how to feed them. It 
is a great anxiety when a great hulking G.D.O. 
(General Duty Orderly, not a Nursing Orderly) 
has to take his turn on night duty with the badly 
wounded. 

It is time the sun shone somewhere — but it 
will surely, later on. 

Friday, January 15th. — We got to Bailleul too 
late last night for loading, and went thankfully 
to bed instead. Now, 3.30 p.m., nearly back at 
B., but expect to be sent on to Rouen : most 
sick this 'time, and bad feet, not exactly frost- 
bite, but swollen and discoloured from the wet. 
One of my enterics is a Field Ambulance boy, 
with a temp, of 105, and he only "went sick" 
yesterday. How awful he must have felt on 
duty. He says his body feels " four sizes too 
big for him." 

It is a mild day, sunny in parts, and not wet. 

Still Friday, January 15th. — We unloaded at 
6 p.m. at B., and are to start off again at 
4.15 a.m.; business is brisk just now; this last 
lot only had mostly minor ailments, besides 
the enterics and the woundeds, 



176 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

The French Major has had a letter from his 
wife at last, they are with the Germans, but 
quite well. We drank their health to-night in 
special port and champagne ! and had Christ- 
mas pudding with sauce d'Enfer, as the lighted 
brandy was called ! But we are all going to 
bed, not ivres I'm glad to tell you. This going 
up by night and down by day is much the least 
tiring way, as we can undress and have a real 
night in bed. 

Later. — Hazebrouck. We have been out, but 
couldn't get as far as No. — CI. H. (where I find 
T. is), as the R.T.O. said we might be going 
on at 11.30. 

We came across an anti-aircraft gun pointing 
to the sky, on a little hill. The gunner officer 
in charge of it seemed very pleased to see us, 
as he is alone all day. (He walks up and down 
the road a certain distance, dropping stones out 
of his pocket at each turning, and clears out 
the surrounding drain -pipes to drain his bit of 
swamp, as his amusements.) 

He showed us his two kinds of 12 lb. shells, 
high explosives and shrapnel. The high explo- 
sive frightens the enemy aeroplane away by its 
terrific bang, he says : our own airmen say they 
don't mind the shrapnel. He says you can't dis- 
tinguish between one kind of French aeroplane 
and the Germans until they are close enough 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 177 

over you to see the colours underneath, and 
then it may be too late to fire. " I'm terrified 
of bringing down a French aeroplane," he said. 
He was a most cheerful, ruddy, fit-looking boy. 
9 p.m. — Another train full, and nearing 
Boulogne ; a supply train full of minor cases 
came down just before us from the same place, 
where we've been three days running. The two 
Clearing Hospitals up there are working at awful 
high pressure — filling in from Field Ambulances, 
and emptying into the trains. All cases now 
have to go through the Clearing Hospitals for 
classification and diagnosis and dressings, but 
it is of a sketchy character, as you may imagine. 
They are all swarming with J.J.'s, even the 
officers. One of the officers is wounded in the 
head, shoulder, stomach, both arms, and both 
feet. A boy in my wards, with a baby face, 
showed me a beautiful silver, enamelled and 
engraved watch he got off a " Yewlan " ; he } 
was treasuring it in his belt " to take home to 
Mother." I asked him if the Yewlan was dead. 
" Oh yes," he said, his face lighting up with 
glee ; " we shot him. He was like a pepper-pot 
when we got to him." Isn't it horrible ? And 
like the boy in ' Punch,' he'd never killed any- 
body before he went to France. I wonder 
what " Mother " will say to his cheerful little 
story. ^ 

M 



178 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

I have been busy bursting a bad quinsy with 
inhalers and fomentations. After a few hours 
he could sing Tipperary and drink a bottle 
of stout ! 

There are two Volunteer shop - boys from a 
London Territorial Regiment, who call me 
" Madam " from force of habit. 

Sunday, January lyth. — We didn't unload at 
Boulogne last night, and are still (n a.m.) taking 
them on to Etretat, a lovely place on the coast, 
about ten miles north of Havre. The hospital 
there is my old No. — General Hospital, that 
I mobilised with, so it will be very jolly to see 
them all again. 

We are going through most lovely country on 
a clear sunny morning, and none of the patients 
are causing any anxiety, so it is an extremely 
pleasant journey, and we shall have a good rest 
on the way back. 

3 p.m. — Just as I was beginning to forget there 
were such things as trenches and shrapnel and 
snipers, they told me a horrible story of two 
Camerons who got stuck in the mud and sucked 
down to their shoulders. They took an hour 
and a half getting one out, and just as they said 
to the other, " All right, Jock, we'll have you 
out in a minute," he threw back his head and 
laughed, and in doing so got sucked right under, 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 179 

and is there still. They said there was no sort 
of possibility of getting him out; it was like 
a quicksand. 

One told me — not as such a very sensational 
fact — that he went for eleven weeks without 
taking off his clothes, or a wash t and then he 
had a hot bath and a change of everything. He 
remarked that he had to scrape himself with 
a knife. 

We have been travelling all day, and shan't 
get to Etretat till about 7 p.m. It is a mercy 
we got our bad cases off at Boulogne — pneu- 
monias, enterics, two s.f.'s, and some badly 
wounded, including the officer dressed in ban- 
dages all over. He was such a nice boy. When 
he was put into clean pyjamas, and had a clean 
hanky with eau-de-Cologne, he said, " By Jove, 
it's worth getting hit for this, after the smells 
of dead horses, dead men, and dead everything." 
He said no one could get into Messines, where 
there is only one house left standing, because 
of the unburied dead lying about. He couldn't 
move his arms, but he loved being fed with 
pigs of tangerine orange, and, like so many, 
he was chiefly concerned with " giving so much 
trouble." He looked awfully ill, but seldom 

I stopped smiling. Of such are the Kingdom 
of Heaven. 



180 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

for home and have been in hospital some time. 
They are clean, shaved, clothed, fed, and con- 
valescent. Most of the lying-downs are re- 
covering from severe wounds of weeks back. It 
is quite new even to see them at that stage, 
instead of the condition we usually get them 
in. Some are the same ones we brought down 
from B6thune three weeks ago. 

One man was in a dug-out going about twenty 
feet back from the trench, with sixteen others, 
taking cover from our howitzers and also from 
the enemy's. The cultivated ground is so soft 
with the wet that it easily gives, and the bursting 
of one of our shells close by drove the roof in 
and buried these seventeen — four were killed and 
eleven injured by it, but only two were got out 
alive, and they were abandoned as dead. How- 
ever, a rescue party of six faced the enemy shells 
above ground and tried to get them out. In 
doing this two were killed and two wounded. 
The other two went on with it. My man and 
another man were pinned down by beams — the 
other had his face clear, but mine hadn't, though 
he could hear the picks above him. He gave 
up all hopes of getting out, but the other man 
when rescued said he thought this one was still 
alive, and then got him out unconscious. When 
he came to he was in hospital in a chapel, and 
it took him a long time to realise he was alive. 






WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 181 

"They generally take you into chapel before 
they bury you," he said, "but I told 'em they 
done it the wrong way round with me. That 
was the worst mess ever I got into in this War," 
he finished up. 

Wednesday, January 2.0th, Sotteville. — The others 
have all been out, but I've been a bit lazy 
and stayed in, washed my hair and mended 
my clothes. This place is looking awfully pretty 
to-day, because all the fields are flooded between 
us and the long line of high hills about a mile 
away, and it looks like a huge lake with the trees 
reflected in it. No orders to move, as usual. 
Ambulance trains travel as "specials" in a 
"marche," which means a gap in the time- 
table. There are only about two marches in 
twenty-four hours, and the R.T.O.'s have to fit 
the A.T.'s in to one or other of these marches 
when orders come that No. — A.T. is wanted. 

e do not get final orders of where our destina- 
tion is till we get to Hazebrouck or St Omer. 
We have been six days without a mail now, and 
have taken loads to Etretat and to Havre. 



w 



Thursday, January 21st — We were not a whole 
day at Sotteville for once : moved out early this 
morning and are still travelling, 9 p.m., between 
Abbeville and Boulogne. It has been a specially 



182 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

slow journey, and, alas ! we didn't go by Amiens : 
the only time we might have, by daylight. 
Beauvais has a fine Cathedral from the out- 
side. I believe we are to go straight on from 
Boulogne, so we may not get our six days' mail, 
alas! 

Friday, January 22nd. — We didn't get in to B. 
till midnight, too late to get mails, and left early 
this morning. At Calais it was discovered that 
the kitchen had been left behind, in shunting 
a store waggon, so we have been hung up all 
day waiting for it at St Omer. Went for a 
walk. It is a most interesting place to walk 
about in, swarming with every kind of war 
material, and the grey towers of the two Cathe- 
drals looked lovely in a blue sky. Such a 
dazzling day: we were able to get on with 
painting the train, which is breaking out into 
the most marvellous labelling, the orderlies com- 
peting with each other. But when at 6 p.m. it 
seemed the day would never end, No. — A.T. 
steamed up with our kitchen tacked on, and 
in the kitchen was the mail-bag — joy of joys ! 

We have just got to Bailleul, 10.30 p.m.: a 
few guns banging. We are wondering if we 
shall clear the CI. hospitals to-night or wait 
till morning: depends if they are expecting 
convoys in to-night and are full. 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 183 

11 p.m. — P. and I, fully rigged for night 
duty, have just been gloomily exploring the 
perfectly silent and empty station and street, 
wondering when the motor ambulances would 

begin to roll up, when B hailed us from 

the train with " 8 o'clock to-morrow morning, 
you two sillies, and the Major's in bed ! " so 
now we can turn in, and load up happily by 
daylight, and it's my turn for the lying down, 
thank goodness, or rather the Liers, as they 
are called. 

Saturday, January 23rd. — Another blue, sunny, 
frosty morning. Loading up this morning was 
hard to attend to, as a thrilling Taube chase 
was going on overhead, the sky peppered with 
bursting shells, and aeroplanes buzzing around : 
didn't bring it down though. 

The train is full of very painful feet : like a 
form of large burning chilblain all over the 
foot, and you can't do anything for them, poor 
lambs. 

Still Saturday, January 23rd. — This is our 
first journey to Versailles. My only acquaintance 
with it was on the way up from Le Mans to 
Villeneuve to join this train. Two kind sisters, 
living in a sort of little ticket office in the middle 
of the line, washed and fed me at 6 a.m. in 



184 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

between two trains, but I saw nothing of the 
glories of Versailles — hope to to-morrow. 

I don't think the men will get much sleep, 
their feet are too bad, but we are going to give 
them a good chance with drugs, the last thing. 
We shall do the night in three watches. 

Sunday, January 24th, 5 a.m., Versailles. — 
They've had a pretty good night most of them. 
If you see any compartment, say six sitters and 
two top-liers showing signs of being near the end 
of their tether, with bad feet and long hours of 
the train, you have only to say cheerfully, " How 
are you getting on in this dug-out ? " for every 
man to brighten visibly, and there is a chorus 
of " If our dug-outs was like this I reckon we 
shouldn't want no relievin' ! " and a burst of wit 
and merriment follows. You can try it all down 
the train ; it never fails. 

They are all in 1st class coaches, not 3rds 
or 2nds. 

9.30 a.m. — They have only four M.A.'s, and the 
hospital is 1% miles off, so all our 366 limping, 
muddy scarecrows are not off yet. There is a 
mist and a piercing north wind, and lots of mud. 
The A.T.'s do so much bringing the British Army 
from the field that I hope some other trains are 
busy bringing the British Army to the field, or 
there can't be many left in the field. 









WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 185 

They told me another story of a man in the 
Royal Scots who was sunk in mud up to his 
shoulders, and the officer offered a canteen of 
rum and a sovereign to the first man who could 
get him out. For five hours thirteen men were 
digging for him, but it filled up always as they 
dug, and when they got him out he died. 

6 p.m. — Just getting to Rouen, probably to load 
for Havre. They do keep us moving. We just 
had time to go and see the Palais Trianon with 
the French Sergeant (who is nearly a gentleman, 
and an artist). Is there anything else quite like 
it anywhere else ? It was defense d'entrer, so we 
only wandered round the grounds and looked 
in at the windows, down the avenues and round 
the ponds and hundreds of statues, and went up 
the great escalier. Louis Quatorze certainly did 
himself proud. 

It was a long way to go, and we were walking 
for hours till we got dog-tired after the long load 
from Bailleul, and after lunch retired firmly on 
to our beds. I don't think we shall take patients 
on to-night. 

Monday, January 25th. — We have been at Sotte- 
ville all day; had time to read last week's 
* Times ' — an exceptionally interesting lot. 

Have just had orders to load up at Rouen 
for Havre to-morrow; then I hope we shall go 



186 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

back to Boulogne. We have not stayed more 
than an hour or two in Boulogne since 
January gth — that is, for seventeen days ; but 
we've managed to just pick up our mails every 
few days while unloading the bad cases. We 
ought to get back there for a mail on Thursday. 

We have taken down a good many Northamp- 
tons lately. They seem an exceptionally seasoned 
and intelligent lot, and have been through the 
thick of everything since Mons. 

Did I tell you that in one place (I don't 
suppose it is the same all along the line) they 
are doing forty-eight hours in the trenches, fol- 
lowed by forty-eight hours back in the billets 
(barns, &c.) for six times, and then twelve days' 
rest, when they get themselves and their rifles 
cleaned; they have armourers' shops for this. 

They nearly all say that only the men who 
are quite certain they never will get back, say 
they want to. If any others say it, " well, they're 
liars." But for all that, you do find one here and 
there who means it. One Canadian asked how 
long he'd be sick with his feet. " I want to get 
back to the regiment," he said. They seem rather 
out of it with the Tommies, some of them. 

Just had a grand hot bath from a passing 
engine in exchange for chocolate. 

We shall have a quiet night to-night. Sotte- 
ville is the quietest place we ever sleep in ; there 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 187 

is no squealing of whistles and shouting of 
French railwaymen as in all the big stations. 
Last night they were shunting and jigging us 
about all night between Rouen and Sotteville. 
Slow bumping over hundreds of points is much 
worse to sleep in than fast travelling. In either 
case you wake whenever you pull up or start 
off. But we shall miss the train when we get 
into a dull hotel bedroom or a billet, or perhaps 
a tent. My month at Le Mans in Madame's 
beautiful French bed was the one luxury I've 
struck so far. 

Tuesday, 26th January. — A dazzling blue spring 
day. As we were not going in to load at Rouen 
till 3 p.m., we went for the most glorious walk 
in this country. We crossed the ferry over the 
Seine to the foot of the steep high line of hills 
which eventually overlooks Rouen, and climbed 
up to the top by a lovely winding woody path 
in the sun. (The boatman congratulated us on 
the sinking of the Bliicher, as a naval man, I 
suppose.) "Who said War? " said P. while we 
were waiting on the shingle for the boat ; it did 
seem very remote. At the top we got to the 
Church of Le Bon Secours, which is in a very 
fine position with a marvellous view. We had 
some lovely cider in a very clean pub with a 
garden, and then took the tram down a very 



188 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

steep track into Rouen. I was standing in 
the front of the tram for the view over Rouen, 
which was dazzling, with the spires and the 
river and the bridges, when we turned a sharp 
corner and smashed bang into a market -cart 
coming up our track. For the moment one 
thought the man and woman and the horse 
must be done for ; the horse disappeared under 
the tram, and there arose such a screaming 
that the three Tommies and I fell over each 
other trying to get out to the rescue. When 
we did we found the man and woman had been 
luckily shot out clear of the tram, except that 
the man's hand was torn, and the old woman 
was frantically screaming, " Mon cheval, mon 
cheval, mon cheval," at least a hundred times 
without stopping. The others were out by this 
time and the two tram people, and the French 
clack went on at its top speed, while P. and 
the Tommies and a very clever old woman out 
of the tram tried to cut the horse clear of the 
broken cart, and I did up the man's hand with 
our hankies ; the only one concerned least was 
the horse, who kept quiet with its legs mixed 
up in the tram. At last the tram succeeded in 
moving clear of the horse without hurting it, 
and it was got up smiling after all. The out- 
side old woman went on picking up the fish 
and the harness, &c, the man was taken off 






WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 189 

to have his hand bathed, and the poor old 
woman of the cart stopped screaming " Mon 
cheval, mon cheval," and went off to have a 
drink, and we walked on and found a train at 
Rouen. That sort of thing is always happen- 
ing in France. 

I hope the overworked people at the heads 
of the various departments of the British Army 
realise how the men appreciate what they try 
and do for them in the trenches. If you ask 
what the billets are like, they say, " Barns and 
suchlike; they do the best they can for us." 
If you ask if the trench conditions are as bad 
for the Germans, they say, "They're worse off; 
they ain't looked after like what we are." 

9.30 p.m. — On way to Havre. I was just 
going to say that from the Seine to Le Havre 
there is nothing to report, when I came across 
a young educated German in my wards with 
his left leg off from the hip, and his right from 
below the knee, and a bad shell wound in his 
arm, all healed now, done at Ypres on 24th 
October. And I had an hour's most thrilling 
and heated conversation with him in German. 
He was very down on the English Sisters in 
hospital, because he says they hated him and 
didn't treat him like the rest. I said that was 
because they couldn't forget what his regiment 
(Bavarians) had done to the Belgian women 



igo DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

and children and old men, and the French. 
And he said he couldn't forget how the Belgian 
women had put out the eyes of the German 
wounded at Liege and thrown boiling water on 
them. I said they were driven to it. 1 I asked 
him a lot of straight questions about Germany 
and the War, and he answered equally straight. 
He said they had food in Germany for ten 
years, and that they had ten million men, and 
that all the present students would be in the 
Army later on, and that practically the supply 
could never stop. And I said that however long 
they could go on, in the end there would be no 
more Germany because she was up against five 
nations. He said no man has any fear of a 
Russian soldier, and that though they were slow 
over it they would get Paris, but not London 
except by Zeppelins ; he admitted that it would 
be sehr schwer to land troops in England, and 
that our Navy was the best, but we had so few 
soldiers, they hardly counted ! He got very 
excited over the Zeppelins. I asked why the 
Germans hated the English, and he said, " In 
Berlin we do not speak of the English at all (!!!); 
it is the French and the Russians we hate." 
He said the Turks were no good zu helfen, and 
Austria not much better. He was very down 

1 I have since found that no sort of evidence was brought forward 
by the Germans to support this charge, and it is emphatically 
denied by the Belgian authorities. 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES igi 

on Belgium for resisting in the first place! and 
said the Schuld was with France and Russia. 
They were very much astonished when England 
didn't remain neutral ! He had the cheek to 
say that three German soldiers were as good 
as twenty English, so I assured him that five 
English could do for fifty Germans, and went 
on explaining carefully to him how there could 
be no more Germany in the end because the right 
must win ! and he said, " So you say in England, 
but we know otherwise in Deutchland, and I 
am a German." So as I am an English we had 
to agree to differ. His faith in his Vaterland 
nearly made him cry and must have given him 
a temperature. I felt quite used up afterwards. 
He is fast asleep now. There is also an old 
soldier of sixty-three who says General French 
and General Smith -Dorrien photographed him 
as the oldest soldier in the British Army. He 
has four sons in it, one killed, two wounded. 
He was with General Low in the Chitral Expedi- 
tion, and is called Donald Macdonald, of the 
K.O.S.B.'s. " Unfortunately I was reduced to 
the ranks for being drunk the other day," he 
said gaily. " But the Captain he said, ' Don't 
lose 'eart, Macdonald, you'll get it all back.' " 

Wednesday, January 2Jth. — They have found a 
way of warming our quarters when we have 
not an engine on. I don't know what we 



ig2 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

should have done without it to-day; it is icy 
cold. Mails to-morrow, hurrah ! Going to turn 
in early. 

Thursday, January 28th. — Got to Boulogne this 
morning. Have been getting stores in and 
repairs done ; expect to be sent up any time. 
Sharp frost and cold wind. 

Friday, January 2gth. — One of those dimcult- 
to-bear days ; hung up all day at a place beyond 
St Omer, listening to guns, and doing nothing 
when there's so much to be done. The line is 
probably too busy to let us up. It happens to 
be a dazzling blue day, which must be wiping 
off 50 per cent of the horrors of the Front. 
The other 50 per cent is what they are out for, 
and see the meaning of. 

We are to go on in an hour's time, " destina- 
tion unknown." 

Saturday, January 30th. — We got up to Merville 
at one o'clock last night, and loaded up only 
forty-five, and are now just going to load up 
again at a place on the way back. We have been 
completely done out of the La Bassee business ; 
haven't been near it. No. — CI. H. that we 
saw on December 27th, where S. C. and two 
more of my No. — G.H. friends were, had to be 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 193 

evacuated in a hurry, as several orderlies were 
killed in the shelling. 

One of my badly woundeds says " the Major " 
(whose servant he has been for four years) asked 
him to make up the fire in his dug-out, while 
he went to the other end of the trench. While 
he was doing the fire a shell burst over the 
dug-out and a bit went through his left leg and 
touched his right. If the Major had been sitting 
in his chair where he was a minute before, his 
head would have been blown off. He said, 
" When the Major came back and found me, 
he drove everybody else away and stayed with 
me all day, and made me cocoa, and at night 
carried my stretcher himself and took me right 
to Headquarters." His eyes shine when he talks 
of "the Major," and he seems so proud he got 
it instead. 

I asked a boy in the sitting-ups what was the 
matter with him. " Too small," he said. Another 
said " Too young " ; he was aged fifteen, in the 
Black Watch. 

A young monkey, badly wounded in hand and 
throat (lighting a cigarette — the shatter to his 
hand saved worse destruction to his throat, 
though bad enough as it is), after we'd settled 
him in, fixed his eye on me and said, " Are 
you going to be in here along of us all the 
way?" "Yes," I said. "That's a good job," 

N 



i 9 4 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

and he is taking good care to get his money's 
worth, I can tell you. 

Some of them are roaring at the man in 
1 Punch ' who made a gallant attempt to do 
justice to all his Xmas presents at once. There 
is a sergeant-major of the Royal Scots very indig- 
nant at having been made to go sick with bad feet. 
Any attempt to fuss over him is met with " I need 
no attention whatever, thank you, Sister. I feel 
more like apologising for being in here. Only five 
weeks of active service," he growled. 

The latest Franco-British idea is to Arras the 
Boches till they Argonne ! 

Sunday, January 31st. — We did go on to Rouen. 
B. is full to the brim. We have only unloaded at 
B. three times since Christmas. 

I'm beginning to think we waste a lot of sym- 
pathy on the poor wounded rocking in a train all 
night after being on it all day. One of mine with 
a bullet still in his chest, and some pneumonia, 
who seemed very ill when he was put on at Mer- 
ville, said this morning he felt a lot better and had 
had the best night for five days ! And my fidgety 
boy with the wound in his throat made a terrible 
fuss at being put off at Boulogne when he found he 
was the only one in his compartment to go and 
that I wasn't going with him. 

I had the easy watch last night because of my 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 195 

cold, and went to bed at 1 a.m.; got a hot bath 
this morning, and lay low all day till a stroll 
between the Seine and the floods after tea (Sotte- 
ville). There are four trains waiting here, and the 
C.S.'s have been skating on the floods. We move 
on at 1 o'clock to-night. No. — A.T. had a bomb 
dropped each side of their train at Bailleul, but 
they didn't explode. 

The French instruction books have come, and I 
am going to start the French class for the men on 
the train ; they are very keen to learn, chiefly, I 
think, to make a little more running with the 
French girls at the various stopping places. 

Two officers last night were awfully sick at 
not being taken off at B., but I think they'll 
get home from Rouen. One said he must get 
home, if only for ten minutes, to feel he was 
out of France. 

Wednesday, February 3rd. — Moved on last night, 
and woke up at Bailleul. Some badly wounded 
on the train, but not on my half. 

On the other beat, beyond Rouen, the honey- 
suckle is in leaf, the catkins are out, and the woods 
are full of buds. What a difference it will make 
when spring comes. On this side it is all canals, 
bogs, and pollards, and the eternal mud. 

We found pinned on a sock from a London 
school child, " Whosoever receives this, when you 



ig6 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

return conqueror, drop me a line," and then her 
name and address ! 

Thursday, February 4th. — For once we unloaded 
at B. and went to bed instead of taking them on 
all night to Rouen. 

Moved out of B. at 5 a.m., breakfast at St O., 
where we nearly got left behind strolling on the 
line during a wait. We are going to Merville in 
the mining district where L. is. 

3 p.m. — We have just taken on about'seventy 
Indians, mostly sick, some badly wounded. They 
are much cleaner than they used to be, in clothes, 
but not, alas ! in habits. Aeroplanes are chasing 
a Taube overhead, but it is not being shelled. 
Guns are making a good noise all round. We are 
waiting for a convoy of British now. 

It is a lovely afternoon. 

The guns were shaking the train just now ; one big 
bang made us all pop our heads out of the window 
to look for the bomb, but it wasn't a bomb. A 
rosy-faced white-haired Colonel here just came up 
to me and said, " You've brought us more firing 
this afternoon than we've heard for a long time." 

We are filling up with British wounded now on 
the other half of the train. It is getting late, and 
we shan't unload to-night. 

Later. — We were hours loading up because all 
the motor drivers are down with flu, and there 



WINTER ON TRAIN & IN TRENCHES 197 

were only two available. The rest are all busy 
bringing wounded in to the Clearing Hospital. 

The spell of having the train full of slight 
medical cases and bad feet seems to be over, and 
wounded are coming on again. 

Three of my sitting-up Indians have tempera- 
tures of 104, so you can imagine what the lying- 
downs are like. They are very anxious cases to 
look after, partly because they are another race 
and partly because they can't explain their wants, 
and they seem to want to be let die quietly in a 
corner rather than fall in with your notions of 
their comfort. 

At Bailleul on our last journey we took on a 
heavenly white puppy just old enough to lap, 
quite wee and white and fat. He cries when he 
wants to be nursed, and barks in a lovely falsetto 
when he wants to play, and waddles after our feet 
when we take him for a walk, but he likes being 
carried best. 

Some Tommies on a truck at Railhead brought 
him up for us ; they adore his little mother and 
two brothers. 

Friday, February 5 th, Boulogne. — We did get 
in late last night, and got to bed at 1 a.m. They 
are unloading during the night again now, and 
also loading up at night. 

One boy last night had lost his right hand ; his 



198 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

left arm and leg were wounded, and both his eyes. 
" Yes, I've got more than my share," he said, 
" but I'll get over it all right." I didn't happen 
to answer for a minute, and in a changed voice he 
said, " Shan't I ? shan't I ? " Of course I assured 
him he'd get quite well, and that he was ticketed 
to go straight to an eye specialist. "Thank God 
for that," he said, as if the eye specialist had 
already cured him, but it is doubtful if any eye 
specialist will save his eyes. 

To-day has been a record day of brilliant sun, 
blue sky and warm air, and it has transformed the 
muddy, sloppy, dingy Boulogne of the last two 
months into something more like Cornwall. We 
couldn't stop on the train (there were no orders 
likely), in spite of being tired, but went in the town 
in the morning, and on the long stone pier in the 
afternoon, and then to tea at the buffet at the 
Maritime (where you have tea with real milk and 
fresh butter, and jam not out of a tin, and a table- 
cloth, and a china cup — luxuries beyond descrip- 
tion). On the pier there were gulls, and a sunny 
sort of salt wind and big waves breaking, and a 
glorious view of the steep little town piled up 
in layers above the harbour, which is packed with 
shipping. 



VIII. 
On No. — Ambulance Train (6) 

ROUEN— NEUVE CHAPELLE— ST ELOI 

February 7, 1915, to March 31, 1915 



Under the lee of the little wood 
I'm sitting in the sun ; 

What will be done in Flanders 
Before the day be done ? 



Above, beyond the larches, 

The sky is very blue ; 
1 It's the smoke of hell in Flanders 

That leaves the sun for you.' " 

— H. C. 



VIII. 

On No. — Ambulance Train (6). 

ROUEN— NEUVE CHAPELLE— ST ELOI. 
February 7, 1915, to March 31, 1915. 

The Indians — St Omer — The Victoria League — Poperinghe 
— A bad load — Left behind — Rouen again — An 
" off" spell — En route to Etretat — Sotteville — Neuve 
Chapelle — St Eloi — The Indians — Spring in N.W. 
France — The Convalescent Home — Kitchener's boys. 

Sunday, February yth. — This is a little out -of - 
the - way town called Blendecque, rather in a 
hollow. No. — A.T. has been here before, and the 
natives look at us as if we were Boches. There 
are 250 R.E. inhabiting a long truck-train here. 
We have given them all our mufflers and mittens ; 
they had none, and the officer has had our officers 
to tea with him. Our men have played a football 
match with them — drawn. 

We went for a splendid walk this morning up 
hill to a pine wood bordered by a moor with 



202 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

whins. I've now got in my bunky-hole (it is not 
quite six feet square) a polypod fern, a plate of 
moss, a pot of white hyacinths, and also catkins, 
violets, and mimosa ! 

I suppose we shall move on to-night if there is a 
marche. 

Many hundreds of French cavalry passed across 
the bridge over this cutting this morning : they 
looked so jolly. 

One of the staff who has been to Woolwich on 
leave says that K.'s new army there is extra- 
ordinarily promising and keen. So far we have 
only heard good of those out here, from the old 
hands who've come across them. 

9.45 p.m. — We are just getting to the place 
where all the fighting is — La Bassee way. Prob- 
ably we shall load up with wounded to-night. 
There's a great flare some way off that looks like 
the burning villages we used to see round Ypres. 
It is a very dark night. 

Monday morning, February 8th. — We stood by 
last night, and are just going to load now. All is 
quiet here. Said to have been nothing happening 
the last few days. 

7 p.m. — Nearing B. We've had a very muddly 
day, taking on at four different places. I have a 
coach full of Indians. They have been teaching 
me some more Hindustani. Some of them sud- 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 203 

denly began to say their prayers at sunset. They 
spread a small mat in front of them, knelt down, 
and became very busy " knockin' 'oles in the 
floor with their 'eads," as the orderly describes it. 

We have a lot of woundeds from Saturday's 
fighting. They took three German trenches, and 
got in with the bayonet until they were " tread- 
ing " on dead Germans ! The wounded sitting- 
ups are frightfully proud of it. After their 
personal reminiscences you feel as if you'd been 
jabbing Germans yourself. They say they " lose 
their minds " in the charge, and couldn't do it if 
they stopped to think, "because they're feelin' 
men, same as us," one said. 

A corporal on his way back to the Front from 
taking some people down to St O. under a guard 
saw one of his pals at the window in our train. 
He leaped up and said, " I wish to God I could 
get chilblains and come down with you." This 
to an indignant man with a shrapnel wound ! 

I've got five bad cases of measles, with high 
temperatures and throats. 

Tuesday, February gth. — Again they unloaded us 
at B. last night, and we are now, n a.m., on our 
way up again. The Indians I had were a very 
interesting lot. The race differences seem more 
striking the better you get to know them. The 
Gurkhas seem to be more like Tommies in tern- 



204 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

perament and expression, and all the Mussulmans 
and the best of the Sikhs and Jats might be 
Princes and Prime Ministers in dignity, feature, 
and manners. When a Sikh refuses a cigarette 
(if you are silly enough to offer him one) he does 
it with a gesture that makes you feel like a house- 
maid who ought to have known better. The 
beautiful Mussulmans smile and salaam and say 
Merbani, however ill they are, if you happen to 
hit upon something they like. They all make a 
terrible fuss over their kit and their puggarees 
and their belongings, and refuse to budge without 
them. 

Sister M. found her orders to leave when we 
got in, but she doesn't know where she is going. 
So after this trip we shall be three again, which is 
a blessing, as there are not enough wards for four, 
and no one likes giving any up. It also gives us 
a spare bunk to store our warehouses of parcels 
for men, which entirely overflow our own dug-outs. 
As soon as you've given out one lot, another bale 
arrives. 

We have had every kind of infectious disease to 
nurse in this war, except smallpox. The Infectious 
Ward is one of mine, and we've had enteric, 
scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and diphtheria. 

7 p.m. — We got to the new place where we wait 
for a marche, just at tea-time, and we had a 
grand walk up to the moor, where you can see 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 205 

half over France each way. There is a travelling 
wireless station up there. Each pole has its 
receiver in a big grey motor-lorry by the roadside, 
where they live and sleep. The road wound 
down to a little curly village with a beautiful old 
grey church. On the top of the moor on the way 
back it was dark, and the flash signals were 
morsing away to each other from the different 
hills. It reminded me of the big forts on the 
kopjes round Pretoria. 

I had my first French class this afternoon at St 
Omer, in the men's mess truck. There were 
seventeen, including the Quartermaster-Sergeant 
and the cook's boy. I'd got a small blackboard 
in Boulogne, and they all had notebooks, and the 
Q.M.S. had arranged it very nicely. They were 
very keen, and got on at a great pace. They 
weren't a bit shy over trying to pronounce, and 
will I think make good progress. They have a 
great pull over men of their class in England, by 
their opportunities of listening to French spoken 
by the French, such a totally different language 
to French spoken by most English people. My 
instruction book is Hugo's, which is a lightning 
method compared to the usual school-books. 
They are doing exercises for me for next time. 

Wednesday, February 10th, 9 p.m. — We woke at 
Merville after a particularly rocky, noisy night 



206 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

journey, and loaded up there with woundeds and 
sick, also Indians (but not in my wards for once). 
My blesses kept me busy till the moment we un- 
loaded this evening at B., and I had not time to 
hear much about their doings. One extraordi- 
narily sporting boy had a wound right through 
his neck, involving his swallowing. It took about 
half an hour to give him a feed, through a tube, 
but he stuck it, smiling all the time. 

Another older man was shot in the stomach, 
and looked as if he wouldn't get over it. He told 
me he'd already been in hospital eight weeks, shot 
in the head at the Aisne. I said what hard luck 
to have to go through it again. " It's got to be 
done," he said. " I didn't give it a thought. I 
think I shall get over this," he said, " but I don't 
want to go back a third time." He has a wife and 
three children in Ireland. 

We are to move up again at 4 a.m. Just had 
dinner (soup, boiled beef as tough as a cable, 
and ration cheese and coffee), and the ' Daily 
Mail.' 

Thursday, February nth. — We have spent most 
of the day at St Omer, and got a lovely walk in 
this morning, along the canal, watching the big 
barges which take 2000 tons of beetroots for 
sugar. 

There is a scheme on foot for fitting up these 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 207 

big barges as transport for the sick (this one came 
from Furnes) as moving Clearing Hospitals. I've 
been over one, in Rouen. They are not yet in 
use, but might be rather jolly in the summer. 

It is the warmest spring day we've had. I had 
my second French class this afternoon again at St 
Omer. We are now moving on, up to Bailleul. 
I expect we shall take patients on this evening, 
and have them all night. 

Friday, February 12th, 6 a.m. — We did a record 
loading up in fifty minutes last night, chiefly 
medical cases, and took eight hours to crawl to 
Boulogne. Now we are on the way for Havre, 
but shall not get there till about 10 p.m. to-night, 
so they will have a long day in the train. 

A good many of the lying-downs are influenza, 
with high temperatures and no voice. It is a bore 
getting to B. in the night, as we miss our mails 
and the ' Daily Mail' 

7 p.m. — This is an interminable journey. Have 
not yet reached Rouen, and shan't get to Havre 
till perhaps 2 a.m. The patients are getting very 
weary, especially the sitting-ups. The wards of 
acute Hers you can run like a hospital. Some of 
the orderlies are now getting quite keen on having 
their wards clean and swept, and the meals and 
feeds up to time, and the washings done, but it 
has taken weeks to bring them up to it. When 



208 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

they do all that well I can get on with the diets, 
temperatures, treatments, and dressings, &c. 
On the long journeys we take round at intervals 
smokes, chocolate, papers, hankies, &c., when we 
have them. The Victoria League has done me 
well in bales of hankies. They simply love the 
affectionate and admiring messages pinned on 
from New Zealand, and one of them always 
volunteers to answer them. 

We shall be up in shifts again to-night. 

We are all hoping to have a day in Rouen on 
the way back, for baths, hair-washing, shopping, 
seeing the Paymaster, and showing the new Sister 
the sights. For sheer beauty and interestingness 
it is the most endearing town ; you don't know 
which you love best — its setting with the hills, 
river, and bridge, or its beautiful spires and 
towers and marvellous old streets and houses. 

Saturday, February 13th, 2 A.M. — Still on the 
way to Havre ! And we loaded up on Thursday. 
This journey is another revelation of what the 
British soldier will stick without grumbling. The 
sitting-ups are eight in a carriage, some with pain- 
ful feet, some with wounded arms, and some with 
coughs, rheumatism, &c, but you don't hear a 
word of grousing. It is only when things are 
prosperous and comfortable that Tommy grumbles 
and has grievances. Some of the liers are too ill 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 209 

to know how long they've been on the train. One 
charming Scotchman, who enlisted for K.'s Army, 
but was put into the Regulars because he could 
shoot, has just asked me to write my name and 
address in his little book so that he can write 
from England. He also says we must " look after 
ourselves " and " study our health," because there's 
a bad time coming, and our Country will need us ! 
He's done his share, after an operation, and will 
never be able to do any more. Everything points 
to this Service having to put out all it can, both 
here and at home. Many new hospitals are being 
organised, and there are already hundreds. 

We have a poor lunatic on board who keeps 
asking us to let his wife come in. The train is 
crawling with J.J.'s. 

Saturday, 4.30 a.m. — Just seen the last stretcher 
off; now going to undress (first time since Wed- 
nesday night) and turn in. 



Saturday, 13th February, Havre. — It is four 
months to-day since I joined the train. It seems 
much longer in some ways, and yet the days go 
by very quickly — even the off-days ; and when 
the train is full the hours fly. 

We went into the familiar streets this morn- 
ing that we saw so much of in August, "waiting 
for orders," and had a look at the sea. The 

o 



210 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

train moved off at tea-time, so we had the 
prettiest part of the journey in a beautiful 
evening sunlight, lighting up the woods and 
hills. The palm is out, and the others saw 
primroses. We have also seen some snow- 
drops. 

After a heavy journey, with two nights out 
of bed, you don't intend to do any letter- 
writing or mending or French classes, but look 
out of the window or sleep or read Dolly 
Dialogues. You always get compensation for 
these journeys in the longer journey back, 
with probably a wait at Rouen or Sotteville, 
and possibly another at Boulogne. We have 
been going up and down again very briskly 
this last fortnight between B. and the Back of 
the Front. 

Sunday, 14th. — A dismal day at Sotteville; 
pouring cats and dogs all day, and the train 
cold. 

Shrove Tuesday. — We were all day coming up 
yesterday. Got to B. in the middle of the 
night, and went on again to St Omer, where 
we woke this morning, so we missed our mails 
again ; it will be a full week's mails when we do 
get them. Lovely blue sky to-day. Had a walk 
with Sister B. round the town, and now this 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 211 

afternoon we are on the way to Poperinghe, 
in a beaten country, where we haven't been 
for three months. French class due at 3 p.m. 
if we haven't got there by then. 

We have just passed a graveyard absolutely 
packed with little wooden crosses. 

Ash Wednesday, February lyth, 6 a.m. — We took 
on a very bad load of wounded at Poperinghe, 
more like what used to happen three months 
ago in the same place ; they were only 
wounded the night before, and some the same 
day. The Clearing Hospital had to be cleared 
immediately. 

We have just got to B., and are going to 
unload here at 8.30 A.M. 

Must stop. Hope to get a week's mails 
to-day. 

A brisk air battle between one British and 
one French and two Taubes was going on 
when we got there, and a perfect sky for it. 
Very high up. 

A wounded major on the train was talking 
about the men. " It's not a case of our lead- 
ing the men; we have a job to keep up with 
them." 

It was a pretty sad business getting them 
off the train this morning ; there were so many 
compound fractures, and no amount of con- 



212 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

triving seemed to come between them and the 
jolting of the train all night. And, to add to 
the difficulties, it was pouring in torrents and 
icy cold, and the railway people refused to 
move the train under cover, so they went 
out of a warm train on to damp stretchers in 
an icy rain. They were nearly all in thin 
pyjamas, as we'd had to cut off their soaking 
khaki : they were practically straight from the 
trenches. But once clear of trains, stretchers, 
and motor ambulances they will be warmed, 
washed, fed, bedded, and their fractures set 
under an anaesthetic. One man had his arm 
blown to pieces on Monday afternoon, had it 
amputated on Monday night, and was put into 
one of our wards on Tuesday, and admitted to 
Base Hospital on Wednesday. But that is 
ticklish work. 

One boy, a stretcher - bearer, with both legs 
severely wounded, very nearly bled to death. 
He was pulled round somehow. About mid- 
night, when he was packed up in wool and 
hot -water bottles, &c, when I asked him how 
he was feeling, he said gaily, " Quite well, de- 
lightfully warm, thank you ! " We got him 
taken to hospital directly the train got in at 
4 a.m. The others were unloaded at 9 a.m. 

We are now — 5 p.m. — on our way to Etaples, 
probably to clear the G.H. there, either to- 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 213 

night or to-morrow morning. It hasn't stopped 
pouring all day. It took me till lunch to read 
my enormous mail. 

Major T. has heard to-day that the French 
railway people want his train back again for 
passenger traffic, so the possibility of our all 
being suddenly disbanded and dispersed is 
hanging over us; but I believe it has been 
threatened before. 

Thursday, February iSth. — In bed, 10 p.m. We 
have had a very heavy day with the woundeds 
again from Bailleul. We unloaded again at 
B. this evening, and are to go up again some 
time to-night. 

There is a great deal going on in our front. 

There was a boy from Suffolk, of K.'s Army, in 
my ward who has only been out three weeks. 
He talked the most heavenly East Anglian — 
" I was agin the barn, and that fared to hit 
me" — all in the right sing-song. 

A sergeant of the D. C.L.I, had a fearful shell 
wound in his thigh, which has gone wrong, and 
as the trouble is too high for amputation they 
will have their work cut out to save his life. 
They were getting out of the trench for a 
bayonet charge, and he had just collected his 
men when he was hit ; so the officer " shook 
hands with him " and went on with the charge, 



214 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

leaving him and another man, wounded in the 
leg, in the trench. They stayed there several 
hours with no dressings on, sinking into the 
mud (can you wonder it has gone wrong?), 
until another man turned up and helped them 
out; then they walked to the Regimental Aid 
Post, 200 yards away, helped by the sound 
man. There they were dressed and had the 
anti - tetanus serum injection, and were taken 
by stretcher - bearers to the next Dressing 
Station, and thence by horse ambulance to 
the Field Ambulance, and then by motor am- 
bulance to where we picked them up. There 
are lots of F.'s regiment wounded. 

Friday, February igth. — We left B. at 5 a.m. 
to-day, and were delayed all the morning farther 
up by one of the usual French collisions. A 
guard had left his end of a train and was 
on the engine ; so he never noticed that twelve 
empty trucks had come uncoupled and careered 
down a hill, where they were run into and 
crumpled up by a passenger train. The guard 
of that one was badly injured (fractured spine), 
but the passengers only shaken. 

At St Omer Miss M. and Major T. and I 
were being shown over the Khaki Train when 
ours moved off. There was a wild stampede; 
the Khaki Train had all its doors locked, and 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 215 

we had miles to go inside to get out. Their 
orderlies shouted to ours to pull the communi- 
cation cord — the only way of appealing to the 
distant engine ; so it slowed down, and we 
clambered breathlessly on. We are side-tracked 
now at the jolly place of the Moor and the 
Wireless Lorries; probably move on in the 
night. 

Saturday, February 20th, 9 p.m. — We've had 
a very unsatisfactory day, loading up at four 
different places, and still on our way down. 
I'm just going to lie down, to be called at 
2 a.m. Now we're four : two go to bed for 
the whole night and the other two take the 
train for half the night when we have a light 
load, as to-day. If they are all bad cases, we 
have two on and two off for the two watches. 
We have some Indians on to - day, but most 
British, and not many blesses. 

The other day a huge train of reinforcements 
got divided by mistake : the engine went off with 
all the officers, and the men had a joy-ride to 
themselves, invaded the cafes, where they some- 
times get half poisoned, and in half an hour's 
time there was a big scrap among themselves, 
with fifty casualties. So the story runs. 

A humane and fatherly orderly has just brought 
me a stone hot-water bottle for my feet as I write 



216 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

this in the rather freezing dispensary coach in the 
middle of the train, in between my rounds. All 
the worst cases and the Indians were put off at 
B., and the measles, mumps, and diphtherias, so 
there isn't much to do ; some are snoring like an 
aeroplane. 

Monday, February 22nd. — We got a short walk 
yesterday evening after unloading at Rouen. 
There was a glorious sunset over the bridge, and 
the lights just lighting up, and Rouen looked its 
beautifulest. We slept at Sotteville, and this 
morning Sister and I walked down the line into 
Rouen and saw the Paymaster and the Cathedral, 
and did some shopping, and had a boiled egg and 
real butter and tea for lunch, and came back in 
the tram. Sister S. is in bed with influenza. 

The lengthening days and better weather are 
making a real difference to the gloom of things, 
and though there is a universal undercurrent of 
feeling that enormous sacrifices will have to be 
made, it seems to be shaping for a step farther 
on, and an ultimate return to sanity and peace. 
It is such a vast upheaval when you are in the 
middle of it, that you sometimes actually wonder 
if every one has gone mad, or who has gone mad, 
that all should be grimly working, toiling, slav- 
ing, from the firing line to the base, for more 
Destruction, and for more highly- finished and 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 217 

uninterrupted Destruction, in order to get Peace. 
And the men who pay the cost in intimate per- 
sonal and individual suffering and in death are 
not the men who made the war. 

Wednesday, February 24th. — We have been all 
day in Boulogne, and move up at 8.15 this even- 
ing, which means loading up after breakfast and 
perhaps unloading to-morrow evening. It has 
given Sister S. another day to recover from her 
attack of influenza. 

Have been busy one way and another all day, 
but went for a walk after tea and saw over the 
No. — G.H. at the Casino — a splendid place, 
working like clockwork. Lots of bad cases, but 
they all look clean and beautifully cared for and 
rigged up. 

Thursday, February 25th. — Moved up to the 
place with the moor during the night. Glorious, 
clear, sunny morning. Couldn't leave the train 
for a real walk, as there were no orders. 

This time last year the last thing one intended 
to do was to go and travel about France for six 
months, with occasional excursions into Belgium ! 

' The Times ' sometimes comes the next day 
now. 

9 p.m. — The ways of French railways are im- 
penetrable : in spite of orders for Bailleul before 



218 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

lunch, we are still here, and less than ever able 
to leave the train for a walk. 

This is the fourth day with no patients on — the 
longest "off" spell since before Christmas. It 
shows there's not much doing or much medical 
leakage. 

Friday, February 26th. — We loaded up this 
morning with a not very bad lot (mine all sitters 
except some enterics, a measles, and a diphtheria), 
and are on our way down again. 

I am all ready packed to get off at B. if my 
leave is in Major M.'s office. 

Saturday, February 27th, 9 p.m., Hotel at Bou- 
logne, — All the efforts to get my seven days' leave 
have failed, as I thought they would. 

Wednesday, March 3rd, Boulogne. — There is not 
a great deal to do or see here, especially on a wet 
day. 

Friday, March $th, 5 p.m. — On way down from 
Chocques — mixed lot of woundeds, medicals, 
Indians, and Canadians. 

I have a lad of 24 with both eyes destroyed by 
a bullet, and there is a bad " trachy." 

Nothing very much has been going on, but the 
German shells sometimes plop into the middle 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 219 

of a trench, and each one means a good many 
casualties. 

10 p.m. — We've had a busy day, and are not 
home yet. 

My boy with the dressings on his head has not 
the slightest idea that he's got no eyes, and who 
is going to tell him ? The pain is bad, and he 
has to have a lot of morphia, with a cigarette in 
between. 

We shall probably not unload to-night, and 
I am to be called at 2 a.m. 

The infectious ward is full with British en- 
terics, dips., and measles, and Indian mumpies. 

Saturday, March 6th, Boulogne. — Instead of 
being called at 2 for duty, was called at 1 to go 
to bed, as they unloaded us at that hour. 

Last night we pulled up at Hazebrouck along- 
side a troop train with men, guns, and horses just 
out from the Midlands. 

Two lads in a truck with their horses asked 
me for cigarettes. Luckily, thanks to the Train 
Comforts Fund's last whack, I had some. One 
said solemnly that he had a " coosin " to avenge, 
and now his chance had come. They both had 
shining eyes, and not a rollicking but an eager 
excitement as they asked when the train would 
get " there," and looked as if they could already 
see the shells and weren't afraid. 



220 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Sunday, March jth. — We are stuck in the jolly 
place close to G.H.Q., but can't leave the train as 
there are no orders. I've been having a French 
class, with the wall of the truck for a blackboard, 
and occasional bangs from a big gun somewhere. 

Tail-end of Monday, March 8th. — On way down 
to Etretat, where No. — G.H. is, which we 
shall reach to-morrow about tea-time. A load of 
woundeds this time ; very busy all day till now 
(midnight), and haven't had time to hear many 
of their adventures. They seem to all come from 
a line of front where the Boches are persistently 
hammering to break through, and though they 
don't get any forrarder they cause a steady 
leakage. We heard guns all the while we were 
loading. A dressing-station five miles away had 
just been shelled, and a major, R.A.M.C., killed 
and two other R.A.M.C. officers wounded. 

I have a man wounded in eight places, includ- 
ing a fractured elbow and a fractured skull, which 
has been trephined. What is left of him that 
hasn't stopped bullets is immensely proud of his 
bandages ! He was one of nineteen who were in 
■a barn when a shell came through the roof and 
burst inside, spitting shrapnel bullets all over 
them ; all wounded and one killed. We have 
just put off an emergency case of gas gangrene, 
temp. 105, who came on as a sitter ! They so 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 221 

often say after a bad dressing, " I'm a lot of 
trouble to ye, Sister." 

Later. — Just time for a line before I do another 
round and then call my relief. It is an awfully 
cold night. 

Tuesday, March gth, 12 noon. — We are passing 
through glorious country of wooded hills and 
valleys, with a blue sky and shining sun, and all 
the patients are enjoying it. It is still very cold, 
and there is a little snow about. They call their 
goatskin coats "Teddy Bears." One very ill 
boy, wounded in the lungs, who was put off at 
Abbeville, was wailing, " Where's my Mary Box ? " 
as his stretcher went out of the window. We 
found it, and he was happy. 

Wednesday, March 10th. — We got to Etretat at 
about 3 p.m. yesterday after a two days' and one 
night load, and had time to go up to the hospital, 
where I saw S. The Matron was away. We 
only saw it at night last time, so it was jolly 
getting the afternoon there. The sea was a 
thundery blue, and the cliffs lit up yellow by the 
sun, and with the grey shingle it made a glorious 
picture to take back to the train. It had been a 
heavy journey with bad patients, and we were 
rather tired, so we didn't explore much. 

We woke at Sotteville near Rouen this morn- 



222 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

ing, and later in the day had a most fatiguing 
and r much too exciting adventure over catching 
the train. Two of the Sisters and I walked into 
Rouen about 10.30, and found No. — A.T. marked 
up as still at Sotteville (in the R.T.O.'s office), 
and so concluded it would be there all day. So 
we did our businesses of hair-washing, Cathedral, 
lunch, &c, and then took the tram back to 
Sotteville, The train had gone ! The Sotte- 
ville R.T.O. (about a mile off) told us it was 
due to leave Rouen loaded up for Havre at 2.36; 
it was then 2.15, and it was usually about three- 
quarters of an hour's walk up the line (we'd 
done it once this morning), so we made a des- 
perate dash for it. Sister M. walks very slowly 
at her best, so we decided that I should sprint 
on and stop the train, and she and the other 
follow up. The Major met me near our engine, 
and was very kind and concerned, and went on 
to meet the other two. The train moved out 
three minutes after they got on. Never again ! — 
we'll stick on it all day rather than have such a 
narrow shave. 

We are full of convalescents for Havre to go 
straight on to the boat. They are frightfully 
enthusiastic about the way the British Army is 
looked after in this war. "There's not much 
they don't get for us," they said. 

There are crowds of primroses out on the 






ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 223 

banks. Our infant R.A.M.C. (Officer's Mess) 
cook (a boy of about twenty, who looks sixteen 
and cooks beautifully) has just jumped off the 
train while it was going, grabbed a handful of 
primroses, and leapt on to the train again some 
coaches back. He came back panting and rosy, 
and said, " I've got some for you, Sister ! " We 
happened not to be going fast, but there was no 
question of stopping. I got some Lent lilies in 
Rouen, and have some celandines growing in 
moss, so it looks like spring in my bunk. 

Thursday, March nth. — Yesterday we took a 
long time getting to the ship from R., and un- 
loaded at 10 p.m. Why we had no warning about 
the departure of the train (and so nearly got left 
behind) was because it was an emergency call 
suddenly to clear the hospitals at R. to make 
room for 600 more expected from the Front. 

We are being rushed up again without being 
stopped at Rouen for the first time on record, so 
I suppose there is a good deal doing. (There 
was — at Neuve Chapelle.) 

It is a comfort to remember that the men 
themselves don't grudge or question what hap- 
pens to them, and the worse they're wounded 
the more they say, " I think I'm lucky ; my 
mate next me got killed." 

The birds are singing like anything now, and 



224 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

all the buds are coming out, and the banks and 
woods are a mass of primroses. 

Friday, March 12th. — We came straight through 
Boulogne in the night, and have been stuck half 
way to the Front all day; I don't know why. 

Saturday, March 13th. — We woke at the rail- 
head for Bethune this morning, and cleared there 
and at the next place, mostly wounded and some 
Indians. 

It was frightfully interesting up there to-day ; 
we saw the famous German prisoners taken at 
Neuve Chapelle being entrained, and we could 
hear our great bombardment going on — the big- 
gest ever known in any war. The feeling of 
Advance is in the air already, and even the 
wounded are exulting in it. The Indians have 
bucked up like anything. We are on our way 
down now, and shall probably unload at B. 

No time for more now. 

11 p.m. — We unloaded at B. by 10 p.m., and 
are now on our way up again ; shortest time 
we've ever waited — one hour after the last 
patient is off. A.T.'s have been tearing up 
empty and back full all day, and are all being 
unloaded at B., so that they can go quickly up 
again. B. has been emptied before this began. 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 225 

They were an awfully brave lot of badly 
woundeds to-day, but they always are. Just now 
they don't mind anything — even getting hit by our 
artillery by mistake. Some of them who were 
near enough to see the effect of our bombard- 
ment on the enemy's trenches say they saw men, 
legs, and arms shot into the air. And the noise ! 
— they gasp in telling you about it. " You could 
never believe it," they say. An officer told me 
exactly how many guns from 9.2's downwards 
we used, all firing at once. And poor fat Ger- 
mans, and thin Germans, and big Germans, and 
little Germans at the other end of it. 

A man of mine with his head shattered and 
his hand shot through was trephined last night, 
and his longitudinal sinus packed with gauze. 
He was on the train at 9 this morning, and 
actually improved during the day ! He came to 
in the afternoon enough to remark, as if he were 
doing a French exercise, " You -are-a-good- 
Nurse ! " The next time he woke he said it 
again, and later on with great difficulty he gave 
me the address of his girl, to whom I am to 
write a post -card. I do hope they'll pull him 
through. 

Sunday, March 14th, 4 p.m. — Just bringing down 
another load. I have a hundred and twenty 
wounded alone; the train is packed. 

p 



226 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

No time for more — the J.J.'s are swarming. 
We unloaded at B. yesterday evening, and 
were off again within an hour or two. 

Monday, March 15^, 2.30 a.m. — Woke up just 
as we arrived at Bailleul to hear most incessant 
cannonade going on I ever heard, even at Ypres. 
The sky is continually lit up with the flashes from 
the guns — it is a pitch-dark night — and you can 
hear the roar of the howitzers above the thud- 
thud of the others. I think we are too far N. 
for there to be any French 75's in it. I had to 
wake Sister D. to see it, as she had never seen 
anything like it before. We are only a few miles 
away from it. 

Must try and sleep now, as we shall have a 
heavy day to-day, but it is no lullaby. 

4.30 p.m. — Just time for a scrawl. The train 
is packed with wounded, most of whom, includ- 
ing the poor sitting-ups, are now dead asleep from 
exhaustion. The British Army is fighting and 
marching all night now. The Clearing Hospitals 
get 800 in at a time, many with no dressings on. 
We have twenty-seven officers on this train alone. 

I have a boy of 22 with both legs off. He is 
dazed and white, and wants shifting very often. 
Each time you fix him up he says, " That's 
champion." 

Forty of them were shelled in their billets. 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 227 

The Germans are said to be, some of them, 
fighting in civilian clothes till they get their 
uniforms. The men say there are hundreds of 
young boys and old men among them ; they are 
making a desperate effort and bringing everything 
they've got into it now. 

Later. — We also have mumps, measles, scarlet 
fever, and diphtheria in the infectious coach. 

A baby lieut. with measles showed me some 
marvellous sketch-maps of German trenches and 
positions he'd made from observations through 
a periscope. He also had the very latest thing 
in sectional war maps, numbered in squares, 
showing every tree, farm, and puddle and trench : 
a place with four cross-roads was called " Con- 
fusion Corner," leading to a farm called " Rest- 
and-be-Thankful." 

10 p.m. — Just got them all off after a strenuous 
day, and we are to go up again at 11 p.m. 

The two German divisions that reinforced are 
giving us a tremendous lot to do. 

It is just as well that this department was 
prepared for this, as it all goes like clockwork 
and an enormous amount of suffering is saved 
by their preparedness. 

The amount that cannot be saved is grim enough 

Must go to bed. 

Tuesday, March 16th. — We loaded up very early 



228 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

this morning with 316 Indians, and are just get- 
ting into Boulogne. I expect we shall be sent up 
again this evening. 

One of the Sikhs wailed before, during, and 
after his hand was dressed. A big Mussulman 
stuffed his hanky between his teeth and bit on 
it, and never uttered, and it was a much worse 
one. What was he to do with crying, he said; 
it was right for it to be done. May God bring 
blessings on my head ; whereas it was full of 
pain, lo, now it was atcha. 

Wednesday, March lyth. — I didn't tell you that 
yesterday a kind I. M.S. colonel at the place 
where we took the Indians on showed us a 
huge pile of used shell cases near the station, and 
we all had some. I've got a twelve-pounder and 
a sixteen-pounder, like my pom-poms, only huge. 
Next time he's going to get us some Gurkha's 
kukries. On the way down a little Gurkha 
happened to get off the train for a minute, and 
when he looked round the train had gone past 
him. He ran after it, and perched on one of 
the buffers till the next stop, when he re- 
appeared, trembling with fright, but greeted with 
roars of amusement by the other Gurkhas. 

We had some more to-day, including twelve 
with mumps, and one who insisted on coming 
with his mumpy friend though quite well himself! 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 229 

We woke this morning at Merville, one of the 
railheads for Neuve Chapelle, and loaded up very 
early — guns going as hard as ever. Mine were a 
very bad lot — British (except the twelve native 
mumpers), including some brave Canadians. 
They kept me very busy till the moment of 
unloading, which is a difficult and painful busi- 
ness with these bad ones; but the orderlies are 
getting very gentle and clever with them. I 
had among them eight Germans, several mere 
boys. One insisted on kissing my hand, much 
to the orderlies' amusement. 

(A truckful of pigs outside is making the most 
appalling noise. 11 p.m. I am writing in bed. 
We generally move up about 11.30 p.m.) 

Every journey we hear thrilling accounts, 
rumours, and forecasts, most of which turn out 
to be true. We have had a lot of the St Eloi 
people. 

There were several versions of a story of 
some women being found in a captured Ger- 
man trench. One version said they were 
French captives, another that they were German 
wives. 

In one compartment were five Tommies being 
awfully kind to one German ; and yet if he 
had a rifle, and they had theirs, he'd be a 
dead man. 

The hospitals at Boulogne are so busy that 



230 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

no one goes off duty, and they are operating 
all night. 

We had time for a blow across the bridge 
after unloading, and I happened to meet my 
friend S. (who was at Havre). She is on night 
duty, and they are grappling with those awful 
cases all night as hard as they can go. Four 
were taken out of the motor ambulances dead 
this week ; the jolting is the last straw for the 
worst ones; it can't possibly be helped, "but 
it seems a pity." 

In all this rush we happen to have had nights 
in bed, which makes all the difference. 

The pigs still squeal, but I must try and go 
to sleep. 

Thursday, March iSth. — We have had an off- 
day to-day at the place of woods and commons, 
which I hope and trust means that things are 
slackening off. It doesn't do to look ahead at 
what must be coming, now the ground is drying 
up before the job is finished ; but we can be 
thankful for the spells of rest that come for 
the poor army. 

We had a heavenly ramble this morning, and 
found blue periwinkles and anemones in the 
woods, but no primroses. Lots of palm and 
gorse. Robins, willow - wrens, and yellow- 
hammers were singing, the darlings, much 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 231 

prettier music than guns, and it is good to 
get away from the sound of motors and trains 
and whistles. 

We also had home - made bread and butter 
to-day out of the village, which caused more 
excitement than the Russian successes. We 
are having much nicer food since the French 
chef left, and it costs us exactly half as much. 

Friday, March igth. — On the way down. Woke 
up at Bailleul, and loaded early wounded and 
sick. Not such severe cases among the wounded, 
but several pneumonias, enterics, &c, besides 
measles, diphtheria, and scarlet. 

Very cold windy day, with snow on the 
ground and showers of snow at intervals. 

Some of mine are from the St Eloi, fighting 
last Sunday and Monday. 

Some of N.'s regiment were badly caught 
between two ruined houses, each containing 
Maxims and machine-guns. They had just been 
reinforced by some young recruits of K.'s Army 
who detrained that night to go straight into the 
charge. " They come on well, them youngsters," 
said an old soldier, " but they got terrible mowed 
down. We lost nine officers in a quarter of an 
hour." 

It has been a very costly splash altogether. 

One officer on the train has fourteen wounds. 



232 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Saturday, March 20th, Boulogne. — The hospitals 
here have been pretty well emptied home now, 
and are ready for the next lot. 

Here we have been standing by all day while 
a big Committee at Abbeville is settling whether 
our beloved and beautiful No. — A.T. is to be 
handed back to the French railway ; and if so, 
whether it will be replaced by inferior French 
carriages, or whether one of the four new British 
trains that are coming will be handed over to 
us, or whether all the personnel will be disbanded 
and dispersed. I have a feeling that its day is 
over, but perhaps things will turn out better 
than that. 

I have been for five walks to-day, including a 
bask in the sun on the sands, and a bath at the 
Club and a visit to the nice old R.C. church and 
the flower-market. 

Tuesday, March 23rd, 9 P.M. — Waiting all day 
at G.H.Q.; things are unusually quiet; one 
train has been through with only ninety, and 
another with a hundred. We went for a walk 
along the canal this morning with the wee 
puppy, and this afternoon saw over the famous 
jute factory Convalescent Home, where they 
have a thousand beds under one roof: it is like 
a town divided into long wards, — dining-rooms, 
recreation rooms, dressing station, chiropodist, 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 233 

tailor's shop, &c. — by shoulder-high canvas or 
sailcloth screens ; they have outside a kitchen, 
a boiler, a disinfector for clothes, and any 
amount of baths. They have a concert every 
Saturday night. The men looked so absolutely 
happy and contented with cooked instead of 
trench food, and baths and games and piano, 
and books and writing, &c. They stay usually 
ten days, and are by the tenth day supposed to 
be fit enough for the trenches again ; it often 
saves them a permanent breakdown from general 
causes, and is a more economical way of treating 
small disablements than sending them to the Base 
Hospitals. Last week they had five hundred 
wounded to treat, and two of the M.O.'s had 
to take a supply-train of seven hundred slightly 
wounded down to Rouen with only two orderlies. 
They had a bad journey. I had a French 
class after tea. We are now expecting to- 
day's London papers, which are due here about 
9 P.M. 

Have got some Hindustani to learn for 
my next lesson (from Sister B.), so will stop 
this. 

Wednesday, March 24th. — Moved on at n p.m. 
and woke up at Chocques; a few smallish guns 
going. Loaded up there very early and at two 
other places, and are now nearly back to 



234 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Boulogne, mostly wounded and a few Indians ; 
some of them are badly damaged by bombs. 

The men in the Neuve Chapelle touch were 
awfully disappointed that they weren't allowed 
to push on to Lille. The older men say 
wonderful things of K.'s boys : " The only fault 
we 'ave to find wi' 'em is that they expose 
theirselves too much. ' Keep your 'eads down ! ' 
we 'ave to say all the time. All they wants is 
to charge." 

According to the men, we shall be busy again 
at the end of this week. 

Midnight. — On way to coast near Havre where 
No. — G.H. is. Put all worst cases off at B., 
the rest mostly sleeping peacefully. Passed a 
place on coast not far S. of B., where six 
hundred British workmen are working from 
7 a.m. to 10 p.m. building hospital huts for 
12,000 beds, a huge encampment, ready for 
future business. 

Have seen cowslips and violets on wayside. 
Lovely moonlight night. Train running very 
smoothly. 

Thursday, March 25th. — There is a great deal of 
very neat and elaborate glass market-gardening 
going on round Rouen : it looks from the train 
an unbroken success ; thousands of fat little 
plants with their glass hats off and thousands 



ROUEN: NEUVECHAPELLE: ST ELOI 235 

more with them on, and very little labour that 
can be seen. But the vegetables we buy for our 
mess are not particularly cheap. 

g p.m., R. — There are three trains waiting here, 
or rather at S., which means a blessed lull for the 
people in the firing line. 

There was a day or two after Neuve Chapelle 
when the number of wounded overflowed the 
possibilities of " collection "; the stretcher-bearers 
were all hit and the stretchers were all used, and 
there were not enough medical officers to cope 
with the numbers (extra ones were hurried up 
from the Base Hospitals very quickly), and if 
you wanted to live you had to walk or crawl, 
or stay behind and die. We had a Canadian 
on who told me last night that he should never 
forget the stream of wounded dragging them- 
selves along that road from Neuve Chapelle to 
Estaires who couldn't be found room for in the 
motor ambulances. Two trains picked them up 
there, and there were many deaths on the trains 
and in the motor ambulances. The " Evacua- 
tion " was very thorough and rapid to the bases 
and to the ships, but in any great battle 
involving enormous casualties on both sides 
there must be some gaps you can't provide 
for. 

Friday, March 26th, — At Sotteville all day. 



236 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Saturday, March 2Jth. — Ditto. Piercing cold 
winds and no heating for a month past. 

Sunday, March 2&th. — Ditto. 

Monday, March 2gth. — Ditto. 

Tuesday, March 30th. — Ditto. This cold wind 
has dried up the mud everywhere, and until 
to-day there's been a bright sun with it. 

The men clean the train and play football, and 
the M.O.'s take the puppy out, and everybody 
swears a great deal at a fate which no one can 
alter, and we are all craving for our week-old 
mails. 



Wednesday, March 31st. — We actually acquired 
an engine and got a move on at 4 o'clock this 
morning, and are now well away north. Just 
got out where we stopped by a fascinating wind- 
ing river, and got some brave marsh-marigolds. 

5 p.m. — Just getting into Boulogne. 



IX. 



With No. — Field Ambulance (i) 

BILLETS: LIFE AT THE BACK OF 
THE FRONT 

April 2, 1915, to April 29, 1915 



The fighting- man shall from the sun 

Take warmth, and life from the glowing- earth ; 
Speed with the light-foot winds to run, 

And with the trees to newer birth ; 
And find, when fighting shall be done, 

Great rest, and fulness after dearth." 

— Julian Grenfell. 



IX. 



With No. — Field Ambulance (i). 

BILLETS: LIFE AT THE BACK OF 
THE FRONT. 

April 2, 1915, to April 29, 1915. 

Good Friday and Easter, 191 5 — The Maire's Chateau — A 
walk to Beuvry — The new billet — The guns — A 
Taube — The Back of the Front — A soldier's funeral 
— German Machine-guns — Gas fumes — The Second 
Battle of Ypres. 

Good Friday, April 2nd. — We got into Boulogne on 
Wednesday from Sotteville at 5 p.m., and as soon 
as the train pulled up a new Sister turned up "to 

replace Sister ," so I prepared for the worst 

and fully expected to be sent to Havre or Etretat 
or Rouen, and began to tackle my six and a half 
months' accumulation of belongings. In the 

middle of this Miss from the Matron-in- 

Chief arrived with my Movement Orders "to 
proceed forthwith to report to the O.C. of 



240 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

No. — Field Ambulance for duty," so hell be- 
came heaven, and here I am at railhead waiting 
for a motor ambulance to take me and my bag- 
gage to No. — F.A. wherever it is to be found. 

The Railway Transport Officer at Boulogne let 
me come up as far as St Omer (or rather the next 
waiting place beyond), on No. — A.T., and get sent 
on by the R.T.O. there. We waited there all 
yesterday, lovely sunny day, and in the evening 
the R.T.O. sent me on in a supply train which 
was going to the railhead for No. — F.A. The 
officer in charge of it was very kind, and turned 
out of his carriage for me into his servant's, and 
apologised for not having cleared out every scrap 
of his belongings. The Mess of No. — saw me 
off, with many farewell jokes and witticisms. 

This supply train brings up one day's rations 
to the ist Corps from Havre, and takes a week 
to do it there and back. This happens daily for 
one corps alone, so you can imagine the work of 
the A.S.C. at Havre. At railhead he is no 
longer responsible for his stuff when the lorries 
arrive and take up their positions end on with 
the trucks. They unload and check it, and it 
is done in four hours. That part of it is now 
going on. 

When we got to railhead at 10.15 P - M « the 
R.T.O. said it was too late to communicate with 
the Field Ambulance, and so I slept peacefully in 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 241 

the officer's bunk with my own rugs and cushion. 
We had tea about 9 p.m. I had had dinner on 
No.—. 

This morning the first thing I saw was No. — 
A.T. slumbering in the sun on the opposite line, 
so I might just as well have come up in her, 
except that there was another Sister in my 
bed. 

After a sketchy wash in the supply train, and 
a cup of early tea from the officer's servant, I 
packed up and went across to No. — for break- 
fast ; many jeers at my having got the sack so 
soon. 

The R.T.O. has just been along to say that 

Major of No. — Clearing Hospital here 

will send me along in one of his motor 
ambulances. 

11 a.m. — Had an interesting drive here in the 
M.A. through a village packed with men billeted 
in barns and empty houses — the usual aeroplane 
buzzing overhead, and a large motor ambulance 
convoy by the wayside. 

We are in the town itself, and the building 
is labelled No. — F.A. Dressing Station for 
Officers. The men are in a French Civil 
Hospital run very well by French nuns, and 
it has been decided to keep the French and 
English nurses quite separate, so the only differ- 
ence between the two hospitals is that the one 

Q 



242 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

for the men has French Sisters, with R.A.M.C. 
orderlies and M.O.'s, and the other for officers 
has English Sisters, with R.A.M.C. orderlies and 
M.O.'s. There are forty-seven beds here (all 
officers). One Army Sister in charge, myself 
next, and two staff nurses — one on night duty. 
There are two floors ; I shall have charge of the 
top floor. 

We are billeted out, but I believe mess in the 
hospital. 

All this belongs to the French Red Cross, and 
is lent to us. 

The surgical outfit is much more primitive 
even than on the train, as F.A.'s may carry 
so little. The operating theatre is at the other 
hospital. 

As far as I can see at present we don't have the 
worst cases here, except in a rush like Neuve 
Chapelle. 

It will be funny to sleep in a comfortable 
French bed in an ordinary bedroom again. It 
will be rather like Le Mans over again, with a 
billet to live in, and officers to look after, but I 
shall miss the Jocks and the others. 

Later. — Generals and "Red Hats" simply 
bristle around. A collection of them has just 
been in visiting the sick officers. We had a big 
Good Friday service at II, and there is another 
at 6 p.m. The Bishop of London is coming 
round to-day. 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 243 

Still Good Friday, 10 p.m. — Who said Active 
Service ? I am writing this in a wonderful 
mahogany bed, with a red satin quilt, in a 
panelled room, with the sort of furniture drawing- 
rooms have on the stage, and electric light, and 
medallions and bronzes, and oil-paintings and old 
engravings, and blue china and mirrors all about. 
It is a huge house like a Chateau, on the Place, 
where Generals and officers are usually billeted. 
The fat and smiling caretaker says she's had two 
hundred since the war. She insisted on pouring 
eau-de-Cologne into my hot bath. It is really 
a lovely house, with polished floors and huge 
tapestry pictures up the staircase. And all this 
well within range of the German guns. After 
last night, in the A.S.C. officer's kind but musty 
little chilly second-class carriage, it is somewhat 
of a change. And I hadn't had my clothes off for 
three days and two nights. This billet is only 
for one night; to-morrow I expect I shall be in 
some grubby little room near by. It has taken 
the Town Commandant, the O.C. of No. — F.A., 
a French interpreter, and an R.H.A. officer and 
several N.C.O.'s and orderlies, to find me a billet 
— the town is already packed tight, and they have 
to continue the search to-morrow. 

This afternoon I went all over the big French 
hospital where our men are. The French nuns 
were charming, and it was all very nice. The 
women's ward is full of women and girls blessees 



244 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

by shells, some with a leg off and fractured — all 
very cheerful. 

One shell the other day killed thirty-one and 
wounded twenty-seven — all Indians. 

I am not to start work till to-morrow, as the 
wards are very light ; nearly all the officers up part 
of the day, so at 6 p.m. I went to the Bishop of 
London's mission service in the theatre. A staff 
officer on the steps told me to go to the left of the 
front row (where all the red hats and gold hats 
sit), but I funked that and sat modestly in the 
last row of officers. There were about a hundred 
officers there, and a huge solid pack of men ; no 
other woman at all. The Bishop, looking very 
white and tired but very happy, took the service 
on the stage, where a Padre was thumping the 
hymns on the harmonium (which shuts up into a 
sort of matchbox). It was a voluntary service, 
and you know the nearer they are to the firing 
line the more they go to church. It was extra- 
ordinarily moving. The Padre read a sort of 
liturgy for the war taken from the Russians, far 
finer than any of ours ; we had printed papers, 
and the response was "Lord, have mercy," or 
" Grant this, O Lord." It came each time like 
bass clockwork. 

Troops are just marching by in the dark. 
Hundreds passed the hospital this afternoon. 
I must go to sleep. 

The Bishop dashed in to see our sick officers 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 245 

here, and then motored off to dine with the 
Quartermaster-General. He's had great services 
with the cavalry and every other brigade. 

Easter Eve, ro p.m. — Have been on duty all day 
till 5 p.m. They are nearly all " evacuated " in a 
few days, so you are always getting a fresh lot in. 

Another Army Sister turned up to-day in a 
motor from Poperinghe to take the place of the 
two who were originally here, who have now 
gone. 

At six this morning big guns were doing their 
Morning Hate very close to us, but they have been 
quiet all day. Two days ago the village two and 
a half miles south-east of us was shelled. 

I found my own new billet this morning before 
going on duty ; it is in a very old little house over 
a shop in a street off the big Place. It is a sort 
of attic, and I am not dead sure whether it is 
clean on top and lively underneath, but time will 
show. The shop lady and her daughter Maria 
Therese are full of zeal and kindness to make me 
comfortable, but they stayed two hours watching 
me unpack and making themselves agreeable ! 
And when I came in from dinner from the cafe, 
where we now have our meals (quite decent), she 
and papa and M. T. drew up a chair for me to 
causer in their parlour, to my horror. 

At 8 p.m. the town suddenly goes out like a 
candle ; all lights are put out and the street sud- 



246 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

denly empty. After that, at intervals, only motor- 
cyclists buzz through and regiments tramp past 
going back to billets. They sound more warlike 
than anything. Such a lot are going by now. 

Easter Sunday, 3 p.m. — The service at 7 this 
morning in the theatre was rather wonderful. 
Rows of officers and packs of men. 

We have been busy in the ward all the morning. 
I'm off 2-5, and shall soon go out and take E.'s 
chocolate Easter eggs to the men in the hospice. 
The officers have any amount of cigarettes, 
chocs., novels,, and newspapers. 

A woman came and wept this morning with my 
billeter over their two sons, who are prisoners, 
not receiving the parcels of tabac and pain and 
gateaux that they send. They think we ought to 
starve the German prisoners to death ! 

This morning in the ward I suddenly found it 
full of Gold Hats and Red Tabs ; three Generals 
and their A.D.C.'s visiting the sick officers. 

Easter Monday. — It is a pouring wet day, and 
the mud is Flanderish. Never was there such 
mud anywhere else. A gunner-major has just been 
telling me you get a fine view of the German 
positions from the Cathedral tower here, and can 
see shells bursting like the pictures in 'The Sphere. 5 
He said his guns had the job of peppering La 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 247 

Bassee the last time they shelled this place, and 
they gave it such a dusting that this place has 
been let severely alone since. He thinks they'll 
have another go at this when we begin to get 
hold of La Bassee, but the latter is a very strong 
position. It begins to be "unhealthy" to get 
into any of the villages about three miles from 
here, which are all heaps of bricks now. 

I'm leaving my billet to-morrow, as they want 
us to be in one house. And our house is the 
Maire's Chateau, the palatial one, so we shall live 
in the lap of luxury as never before in this 
country ! And have hot baths with eau-de- 
Cologne every night, or cold every morning. 
And the woman is going to faire our cuisine there 
for us, so we shan't have to wait hours in the cafe 
for our meals. There is only one waiter at the 
cafe, who is a beautiful, composed, wrapt, silent 
girl of 16, who will soon be dead of overwork. 
She is not merely pretty, but beautiful, with the 
manners of a princess ! 

I shall be glad to get away from my too kind 
billeters ; every night I have to sit and causer 
before going to bed, and Ma-billeter watches me 
in and out of bed, and tells me my, nightgown is 
tres pratique, and just like the officers Anglais 
have. But she calls me with a lovely cup of 
coffee in the morning. They've been so kind that 
I dread telling them I've got to go. 



248 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

An officer was brought in during the night with 
a compound -fractured arm. He stuck a very 
painful dressing like a brick to-day, and said to 
me afterwards, " I've got three kids at home ; 
they'll be awfully bucked over this ! " He had 
said it was " nothing to write home about." 

Another, who is chaffing everybody all day 
long, was awfully impressed because a man in his 
company — I mean platoon — who had half his leg 
blown off, said when they came to pick him up, 
"Never mind me — take so-and-so first" — "just 
like those chaps you read of in books, you know." 
It was decided that he meant Sir Philip Sidney. 

Yesterday afternoon I had a lovely time taking 
round chocolate Easter eggs to our wounded in 
the French hospital. The sweetest, merriest Ma- 
Sceur took me round, and insisted on all the 
orderlies having one too. They adore her, and 
stand up and salute when she comes into the 
ward; and we had enough for the jeunes filles 
and the grannies in the women's ward of blessees. 
They were a huge success. Those men get very 
few treats. She also showed me the Maternity 
Ward. 

Tuesday, April 6th, 10 p.m. — I am writing in bed 
in my lovely little room overlooking the garden, 
and facing some nice red roofs and both the old 
Towers of the town (one dating from le temps des 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 249 

Espagnols) in le Chateau, instead of in my attic 
in the narrow street where you heard the tramp 
of the men who viennent des tranches in the 
night. We had a lovely dinner, served by the 
fat and tres aimable Marie in a small, panelled 
dining-room, with old oak chairs and real silver 
spoons (the first I've met since August). So 
don't waste any pity for the hardships of War ! 
And an officer with a temperature of 103° ex- 
plained that he'd been sleeping for sixteen days 
on damp sandbags "among the dead Germans." 

Nothing coming in anywhere, but when it does 
begin we shall get them. 

The A.D.M.S. is going to arrange for us to 
go up with one of his motor ambulances to one 
of the advance dressing stations where the first 
communication trench begins ! It is at the 
corner of a road called " Harley Street," which 
he says is " too unhealthy," where I mayn't be 
taken. Won't it be thrilling to see it all ? 

Officers' "trench talk" is exactly like the men's, 
only in a different language. 

It has been wet and windy again, so I did 
not explore when I was off this afternoon, but 
did my unpacking and settling in here. With 
so many moves I have got my belongings into 
a high state of mobilisation, and it doesn't take 
long. 

Last night at the cafe, one of the despatch 



250 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

riders played Chopin, Tchaikowsky, and Elgar 
like a professional. It was jolly. The officers 
are awfully nice to do with on the whole. 

Wednesday, April yth. In bed, 10.30 p.m. — It 
has been a lovely day after last night's and 
yesterday's heavy rain. We are busy all day 
admitting and evacuating officers. The lung 
one had to be got ready in a hurry this morning, 
and Mr L. took him down specially to the train. 

A very nice Brigade-Major came in, in the 
night, with a shell wound in the shoulder. 
This morning a great jagged piece was dug 
out, with only a local anaesthetic, and he stuck 
it like a brick, humming a tune when it became 
unbearable and gripping on to my hand. 

I was off at 5 p.m., and went to dig out Marie 
Therese from my old billet, to come with me 
to Beuvry, the village about two and a half miles 
away that was shelled last week ; it is about half- 
way to the trenches from here. It was a lovely 
sunsetty evening, and there was a huge stretch 
of view, but it was not clear enough to make 
anything out of the German line. She has a 
tante and a grandmere there, and has a " laisser- 
passer soigner une tante malade " which she has 
to show to the sentry at the bridge. I get 
through without. The tante is not at all malade 
— she is a cheery old lady who met us on the 
road. M. T. pointed me out all the shell holes. 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 251 

We met and passed an unending stream of khaki, 
the men marching back from their four days in 
the trenches, infant officers and all steadily 
trudging on with the same coating of mud from 
head to foot, packs and rifles carried anyhow, 
and the Trench Look, which can never be de- 
scribed, and which is grim to the last degree. 
Each lot had a tail of limping stragglers in ones 
and twos and threes. I talked to some of these, 
and they said they'd had a very "rough" night 
last night — pouring rain — water up to their knees, 
and standing to all night expecting an attack 
which didn't come off; but some mines had been 
exploded meant for their trench, but luckily they 
were ten yards out in their calculations, and they 
only got smothered instead of blown to bits. 
And they were sticking all this while we were 
snoring in our horrible, warm, soft beds only a 
few miles away. We went on past some of the 
famous brick stacks through the funny little vil- 
lage full of billets to the church, where le Salut 
was going on. We passed a dressing station of 
No. — Field Ambulance. The grandmere had two 
sergeants billeted with her who seemed pleased to 
have a friendly chat. Some of the men I said 
good-night to were so surprised (not knowing 
our grey coat and hat), I heard them say to each 
other " English ! " Marie Therese simply adores 
the Anglais — they are so gais, such bon courage, 
they laugh always and sing — and they have 



252 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

" beaucoup de fiancees francaises pour passer 
le temps!" She told me they had yester- 
day a boy of eighteen who was always 
triste, but bien poll, and he knows six 
languages and comes from the University of 
London. When he left for the trenches he 
said, "Je vais a la mort," but he has promised 
to come and see them on Saturday or Sunday, 
" s'il n'est pas mort, ou blessed she said, as 
an afterthought. Her own young man is a la 
Guerre, and she is making her trousseau. They 
do beautiful embroidery on linen. 

I was pretty tired when we got back at 8 
o'clock, as it was a good five-mile walk, part of 
the way on fiendish cobble-stones, and we are 
on our feet all day at the Dressing Station. But 
I am very fit, and all the better for the excellent 
fresh food we have here. No more tins of any- 
thing, thank goodness ! 

Thursday, April 8th. — Talking of billets, a 
General and his Staff are coming to this Chateau 
to-morrow and we three have got to turn out, 
possibly to a house opposite on the same square, 
which is empty. We live in terror of unknown 
Powers-that-Be suddenly sending us down. The 
C.O. and every one here are very keen that we 
should be as comfortably billeted as possible. 
He said to-day, " Later on you may get an awful 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 253 

place to live in." Of course we are aiming at 
becoming quite indispensable ! If you can once 
get your Medical Officers to depend on you for 
having everything they want at hand, and for 
making the patients happy and contented, and 
the orderlies in good order, they soon get to 
think they can't do without you. 

There are two nice tea-shops where all the 
officers of the 1st and 2nd Divisions go and 
have tea. 

On Saturday morning they sent three hundred 
shells into Cuinchy, in revenge for their trench 
blown up (see to - day's Communique from 
Sir J. F.). 

Friday, April gth, 10.30 p.m. — An empty house 
was found for us on the same square, left exactly 
as it was when the owners left when the place 
was shelled. It was filthy from top to toe, but 
we have found a girl called Gabrielle to be our 
servant, and she has made a good start in the 
cleaning to-day. There are three bedrooms — 
mine is a funny little one built out at the back, 
down three steps, with two windows overlooking 
a corner of the square and our road past the 
hospital. 

It is my fourth billet here in a week, and 
Gabrielle and I have made it quite habitable 
by collecting things from other parts of the 



254 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

house. We are back in our own rugs and 
blankets again without sheets, and there is no 
water on yet, but we filled our hot-water bottles 
at the hospital, and are quite warm and cosy, 
and locked up — I shall have to let Gabrielle in 
at 6.30 to-morrow morning. She is going to shop 
and cook for us, with help from the kind Marie 
at the Chateau, who is aghast at our present 
more military mode of living. The Chateau is 
now swarming with Staff Officers, to whom 
Marie pays far less attention than she does 
to us! 

When the wind is in the right direction you 
can hear the rifle firing as well as the guns — 
and they are often shelling aeroplanes on a fine 
day. We have two bad cases in to-night — one 
wounded in the lung, and one medical transferred 
from downstairs, where the slight medicals are. 

A Captain of the , hit in the back this 

morning when he was crossing in the open to 
visit a post in his trench, has a little freckled 
Jock for his servant, who dashed out to bring 
him in when he fell. " Most gallant, you know," 
he said. They adore each other. Jock stands 
to attention, salutes, and says " Yes'm " when I 
gave him an order. Their friends troop in to 
see them as soon as they hear they're hit. So 
many seem to have been wounded before — nearly 
all, in fact. 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 255 

Letters are coming in very irregularly, I don't 
quite know why. 

Saturday, April 1.0th, 10.30 p.m. — It is difficult 
to settle down to sleep to-night : the sky is lit up 
with flashes and star-shells, and every now and 
then a big bang shakes the house, above the 
almost continuous thud, thudding, and the bark- 
ing of the machine-guns and the crackling of 
rifle firing ; they are bringing in more to-day, 
both here and at the Hospice, and we are tired 
enough to go to sleep as if we were at home ; I 
shouldn't wonder if the Night Sister had a busy 
night. 

We had to rig up our day-room for an opera- 
tion this evening — they have always taken them 
over to the Hospice, where they have a very 
swanky modern theatre. 

We couldn't manage to get any food to-day 
for Gabrielle to cook for us, as our rations hadn't 
come up, so we went back to the cafe. She has 
been busy nettoying all day, and the house feels 
much cleaner. 

The dead silence, darkness, and emptiness of 
the streets after 8 o'clock are very striking. 

Sunday, April nth. — This afternoon they shelled 
Beuvry (the village I went to with Marie Therese 
on Wednesday) and wounded eleven women and 



256 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

children ; the advanced dressing station of No. — 
F.A. took them in. The promise to send us in 
one of the M.A.'s to " Harley Street" (the name 
of the first communication trench) has been taken 
back until things quiet down a little. There was 
an air battle just above us this evening, — a Taube 
sailing serenely along not very high, and not 
altering her course or going up one foot, for all 
the shells that promptly peppered the sky all 
round her. You hear a particular kind of bang 
and then gaze at the Taube ; suddenly a shining 
ball of white smoke appears close to her, and 
uncurls itself in the sun against the blue of the 
sky. As it begins to uncurl you hear the ex- 
plosion, and however much you admire the Ger- 
man's pluck, and hope he'll dodge them safely, 
you can't help hoping also that the next one 
will get him and that he'll come crashing down. 
Isn't it beastly? It was so near that the French 
were calling out excitedly, " Touche I II descend," 
but he got away all right. 

Another officer dangerously wounded was 
transferred to my ward to-day from the French 
hospital. He was feebly grappling with a Seven- 
penny which he could neither hold nor read. 
" Anything to take my thoughts off that beastly 
war ! " he said. 

A small parcel of socks, cigs., and chocs, came 
to-day. Soon after, I found the road below was 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 257 

covered with exhausted trench stragglers resting 
on the kerb, the very men for the parcel. They 
had all that and one mouth-organ — wasn't it 
lucky? One Jock said, "That's the first time 
I've heard a woman speak English since I left 
Southampton six months ago ! " 

Gabrielle cooked a very nice supper for us 
to-night — which I dished up when we came in. 
It is much more fun camping out in our own little 
empty house than in the grand Chateau — but I 
didn't have time to look at nearly all the lovely 
engravings there. 

Streams of columns have been passing all day ; 
one gun-team had to turn back because one of 
the off horses jibbed and refused to go any farther. 

Though it is past 11 p.m. the sounds outside 
are too interesting to go to sleep ; the bangs are 
getting louder ; those who vienneni des tranches 
are tramping down and transport waggons 
rattling up! 

Monday, April 12th. — No mail to-day. This 
has been a very quiet day, fewer columns, aero- 
planes, and guns, and the three bad officers hold- 
ing their own so far. The others come and go. 

Tuesday, April 13th. — There is something quite 
fiendish about the crackling of the rifle firing 
to - night, and every now and then a gun like 

R 



258 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

"Mother" speaks and shakes the town. Last 
night it was quite quiet. All leave has been 
stopped to-day, and there are the wildest rumours 
going about of a big naval engagement, the 
forcing of the Narrows, and the surrender of St 
Mihiel, and anything else you like ! 

These Medical Officers have always hung on 
to the most hopeless, both here and at the 
Hospice, beyond the last hope, and when they 
pull through there is great rejoicing. 

It doesn't seem somehow the right thing to 
do, to undress and get into bed with these 
crashes going on, but I suppose staying up 
won't stop it ! 

Wednesday, April 14th. — Very quiet day; it 
always is after exciting rumours which come to 
nothing ! But it has been noisier than usual in the 
daytime. I rested in my off-time and didn't go out. 

The Victoria League sent some awfully nice 
lavender bags to-day, and some tins of Keating's, 
which will be of future use, I expect. Just now, 
one is mercifully and strangely free from the 
Minor Scourges of War. 

The German trenches captured at Neuve 
Chapelle, and now occupied by us, are full of 
legs and arms, which emerge when you dig. 
Some are still caught on the barbed wire and 
can't be taken away. 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 259 

We are not being at all clever with our rations 
just now, and manage to have indescribably nasty 
and uneatable meals ! But we shall get it better 
in time, by taking a little more trouble over it. 

We had scrambled eggs to-night, which I made 
standing on a chair, because the gas-ring is so 
high, and Sister holding up a very small dim oil- 
lamp. But they were a great success. And then 
we had soup with fried potatoes in it ! and tea. 

Thursday, April 15th. — This afternoon has been 
a day to remember. We've had our journey up 
to the firing line, to a dressing station just over 
half a mile from the first line of German trenches ! 
It is between the two villages of Givenchy and 
Cuinchy, this side of La Bassee. The journey 
there was through the village I walked to with 
Marie Therese (which has been shelled twice since 
we came), and along the long, wide, straight road 
the British Army now knows so well — paved in 
the middle and a straight line of poplars on each 
side. As far as you could see it was covered 
with two streams of khaki, with an occasional 
string of French cavalry — one stream going up 
to the trenches after their so many days' "rest," 
and the other coming from the trenches to their 
" rest." We soon got up to some old German 
trenches from which we drove them months ago ; 
they run parallel with the road. On the other 



260 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

side we saw one of our own Field Batteries, 
hidden in the scrub of a hedge — not talking at 
the moment. There were also some French 
batteries hidden behind an embankment. " The 
German guns are trained always on this road," 
said our A.S.C. driver cheerfully, "but they don't 
generally begin not till about 4 o'clock," so, as it 
was then 2.30, we weren't alarmed. They know 
it is used for transport and troops and often send 
a few shells on to it. We sat next him and he 
did showman. Before long we got into the area 
of ruined houses — and they are a sight ! They 
spell War, and War only — nothing else (but 
perhaps an earthquake ?) could make such awful 
desolation ; in a few of the smaller cottages with 
a roof on, the families had gone back to live in a 
sort of patched-up squalor, but all the bigger 
houses and parts of streets were mere jagged 
shells. The two villages converge just where 
we turned a corner from the La Bass6e road into 
a lane on our left where the dressing station is. 
A little farther on is " Windy Corner," which is 
" a very hot place." We had before this passed 
some of our own reserve unoccupied trenches, 
some with sandbags for parapets, but now we 
suddenly found ourselves with a funny barricade 
of different coloured and shaped doors, taken from 
the ruined houses, about 8 feet high on our right. 
This was to prevent the German snipers from 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 261 

seeing our transport or M.A.'s pass down that 
lane to the communication trench, which has its 
beginning at the ruined house which is used by 
the F.A. as one of its advanced dressing stations. 
It is called No. 1 Harley Street. Here we got 
out, and the first person we saw was Sergt. P., 
who was theatre orderly in No. 7 at Pretoria. He 
greeted us warmly and took us to Capt. R., who was 
the officer in charge. He also was most awfully 
kind and showed us all over his place. We went 
first into his two cellars, where the wounded are 
taken to be dressed, instead of above, where they 
might be shelled. They had a queer collection of 
furniture — a table for dressings, and some odd- 
ments of chairs, including two carved oak dining- 
room chairs. Round the front steps is a barricade 
of sandbags against snipers' bullets. The officer's 
room above the cellars was quite nice and tidy, 
furnished from the ruined houses, and with a 
vase of daffodils ! He had been told the day 
before to allow no one up the staircase, because 
snipers were on the look-out for the top windows, 
and if it were seen to be used as an observing 
station it might draw the shells. However, just 
before we left he changed his mind and took us 
up and showed us all the landmarks, including 
the famous brick-stacks, where there must be 
many German graves, but we all had to be very 
careful not to show ourselves. The garden at the 



262 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

back has a row of graves with flowers growing on 
them, and neat wooden crosses with little engraved 
tin plates on, with the name and regiment. One 
was, " An unknown British Soldier." There were 
no wounded in the D.S. this afternoon. 

The orderlies showed us lots of interesting 
bits of German shells and time fuses, &c. The 
house was full of big holes, with dirty smart 
curtains, and hats and mirrors lying about the 
floors upstairs among the brickwork and ruins. 

They then took us a little way down the com- 
munication trench called " Hertford Street," 
under the " Marble Arch " to " Oxford Circus ! " 
It is quite dry mud over bricks and very narrow, 
and goes higher than your head on the enemy 
side, and has zigzags very often. You can only 
go single file, and we had to wait in a zigzag 
to let a lot of men go by — they stream past 
almost continually. One officer invited us to 
come and see his dug-out, but it was farther 
along than we might go without being awfully 
in the way. We had before this given one 
stream of ingoing men all the cigarettes, choco- 
lates, writing-paper, mouth-organs, Keating's, 
pencils, and newspapers we could lay hands on 
before we started, and we could have done 
with thousands of each. Every few minutes 
one of our guns talked with a startlingly loud 
noise somewhere near, but Captain R. said it 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 263 

was an exceptionally quiet day, and we didn't 
hear a single German gun or see any bursting 
shells. It was a particularly warm sunny day, 
and the men going into the trenches were so 
cheerful and jolly that it didn't seem at all tragic 
or depressing, and there was nothing but one's 
recollections of the Aisne and Ypres after what 
they call "a show" to remind one what it all 
meant and what it might at any moment turn 
into. One hasn't had before the opportunities 
of seeing the men who are in it (and not at the 
Bases or on the Lines of Communication) while 
they are fit, but only after they are wounded 
or sick, and the contrast is very striking. All 
these after their " rest " look fit and sunburnt 
and natural, and the one expression that never or 
rarely fails, whether fit, wounded, or sick, is the 
expression of acquiescence and going through 
with it that they all have. If it failed at all it was 
with the men with frost-bite and trench feet, who 
stuck it so long when winter first came on before 
they got the braziers, and in the long rains when 
they stood in mud and water to their waists. 
Now, thank Heaven, the ground is hard again. 
I saw three small children playing about just 
behind the dressing station, where some men 
unloading a lorry were killed a few days ago. 
The women and children are all along the road, 
absolutely regardless of danger as long as they 



264 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

are allowed to stay in their own homes. The 
babies sit close up against the Tommies who 
are resting by the roadside. 

We saw a great many wire entanglements, 
so thick that they look like a field of lavender 
a little way off. From the top windows of the 
ruined house we could see long lines of heads, 
picks and shovels, going single file down " Hert- 
ford Street," but they couldn't be seen from the 
enemy side because of the parapet. 

Friday, April 16th. — At about 7.30 this evening 
I was writing the day report when the sergeant 
came in with three candles and said an order 
had come for all lights to be put out and only 
candles used. So I had to put out all the lights 
and give the astonished officers my three candles 
between them, while the sergeant went out to 
get some more. The town looks very weird 
with all the street lamps out and only glimmers 
from the windows. It was kept pretty darkened 
before. It may be because of the Zeppelin at 
Bailleul on Wednesday, or another may be 
reported somewhere about. 

This afternoon I saw a soldier's funeral, which 
I have never seen before. He was shot in the 
head yesterday, and makes the four hundred and 
eleventh British soldier buried in this cemetery. 
I happened to be there looking at the graves, 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 265 

and the French gravedigger told me there was 
to be another buried this afternoon. The grave- 
digger's wife and children are with the Allemands, 
he told me, the other side of La Bassee, and he 
has no news of them or they of him. 

It was very impressive and moving, the 
Union Jack on the coffin (a thin wooden 
box) on the waggon, and a firing party, and 
about a hundred men and three officers and 
the Padre. It was a clear blue sky and 
sunny afternoon, and the Padre read beauti- 
fully and the men listened intently. The graves 
are dug trenchwise, very close together, practi- 
cally all in one continuous grave, each with a 
marked cross. There is a long row of officers, 
and also seven Germans and five Indians. 

The two Zeppelins reported last night must 
have gone to bed after putting out all our lights, 
as nothing happened anywhere. 

The birds and buds in the garden opposite 
make one long for one's lost leave, but I suppose 
they will keep. 

We have only nine officers in to-day; every- 
thing is very quiet everywhere, but troop trains 
are very busy. 

10.30 p.m. — It is getting noisy again. Some 
batteries on our right next the French lines 
are doing some thundering, and there are more 
star-shells than usual lighting up the sky on 



266 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

the left. They look like fireworks. They are 
sent up in the firing line to see if any groups 
of enemy are crawling up to our trenches in the 
dark. When they stop sending theirs up we 
have to get busy with ours to see what they're 
up to. It's funny to see that every night from 
your bedroom windows. They give a tremendous 
light as soon as they burst. 

When I went into the big church for benedic- 
tion this evening at 6.30, every estaminet and 
cafe" and tea-shop was packed with soldiers, 
and also as usual every street and square. At 
seven o'clock they were all emptying, as there 
is an order to-day to close all cafes, &c, at seven 
instead of eight. 

All lights are out again to-night. 

Another aeroplane was being shelled here this 
evening. 

Sunday, April iSth, 9.30 p.m. — It hasHfreeif 
another dazzling day. A major of x)ne of the 
Indian regiments came in this evening. He said 
the Boches are throwing stones across to our 
men wrapped in paper with messages like this 
written on them, " Wrry don't you stop the 
War ? We want to get home to our wives these 
beautiful days, and so do you, so why do you 
go on fighting?" The sudden beauty of the 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 267 

spring and the sun has made it all glaringly 
incongruous, and every one feels it. 

One badly wounded officer got it going out 
of his dug-out to attend to a man of his company 
who was hit by a sniper in an exposed place, 
one of his subalterns told me. His own account, 
of course, was a rambling story leaving that part 
entirely out. 

This next shows how the Germans had left 
nothing to chance. They have about twelve 
machine-guns to every battalion, and are said to 
have had 12,000 when the War began. Passing 
through villages they pack ten of them into an 
innocent-looking cart with a false bottom. We 
captured some of these empty carts, and some 
time afterwards found them full of machine-guns ! 

Gold hats and red hats have been dropping 
in all day. They do on Sundays especially after 
Church Parade. 

Saturday, April 24th. — We were watching hun- 
dreds of men pass by to - day, whistling and 
singing, on their way to the trenches. 

News came to us this morning of the Ger- 
mans having broken through the trench lines 
north of Ypres and shelled Poperinghe, which 
was out of range up to now, but it is not official. 

The guns are very loud to-night ; I hope 



268 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

they're keeping the Germans busy ; something 
is sure to be done to draw them off the Ypres 
line. 

Sunday, April 25th. — The plum -pudding was 
" something to write home about ! " and the 
Quartermaster sent us a tin of honey to-day, 
the first I've seen for nine months. 

A General came round this morning. He said 
the Canadians and another regiment had given 
the Germans what for for this gas-fumes business 
north of Ypres, got the ground back and re- 
covered the four guns. The beasts of Germans 
laid out a whole trench full of Zouaves with 
chlorine gas (which besides being poisonous is 
one of the most loathsome smells). Of course 
every one is busy finding out how we can go 
one better now. But this afternoon the medical 
staffs of both these divisions have been trying 
experiments in a barn with chlorine gas, with 
and without different kinds of masks soaked 
with some antidote, such as lime. All were 
busy coughing and choking when they found 
the A.D.M.S. of the — Division getting blue 
and suffocated ; he'd had too much chlorine, 
and was brought here, looking very bad, and 
for an hour we had to give him fumes of 
ammonia till he could breathe properly. He 
will probably have bronchitis. But they've 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 269 

found out what they wanted to know — that you 
can go to the assistance of men overpowered 
by the gas, if you put on this mask, with less 
chance of finding yourself dead too when you 
got there. They don't lose much time finding 
these things out, do they ? 

On Saturday I shall be going on night duty for 
a month. 

Monday, April 26th, 11 p.m. — We have been 
admitting, cutting the clothes off, dressing, and 
evacuating a good many to-day, and I think 
they are still coming in. 

There is a great noise going on to-night, snap- 
ping and popping, and crackling of rifle firing and 
machine-guns, with the sudden roar of our 9.2's 
every few minutes. The thundery roll after them 
is made by the big shell bounding along on its way. 

Two officers were brought in last night from a 
sap where they were overpowered by carbon mon- 
oxide. Three of them and a sergeant crawled 
along it to get out the bodies of another officer 
and a sergeant who'd been killed there by an 
explosion the day before ; it leads into a crater in 
the German lines, and reaches under the German 
trenches, which we intended to blow up. But 
they were greeted by this poisonous gas last night, 
and the officer in front of these two suddenly 
became inanimate ; each tried to pull the one in 



270 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

front out by the legs, but all became unconscious 
in turn, and only these two survived and were 
hauled out up twenty feet of rope-ladder. They 
will get all right. 

The wounded ones are generally in " the ex- 
cited stage " when they arrive — some surprised 
and resentful, some relieved that it is no worse, 
and some very quiet and collapsed. 

Captain showed me his periscope to-day ; 

you bob down and look into it about level with 
his mattress, and then you see a picture of the 
garden across the road. He has seen one made 
by Ross with a magnifying lens in it so good that 
you can see the moustaches of the Boches in it 
from the bottom of your trench. The noise is 
getting so beastly I must knock off and read 
' Punch.' 

Tuesday, April 2Jth. — Have been busy all day, 
and so have the guns. When the 15 - inch 
howitzers began to talk the old concierge lady at 
the O.D.S. trotted out to see I'orage, and found 
a cloudless sky, and, mon Dieu, it was les canons. 
It is a stupendous noise, like some gigantic angry 
lion. The official accounts of the second dash for 
Calais reach us through ' The Times ' two days 
after the things have happened, but the actual 
happenings filter along the line from St Omer 
(G.H.Q.) as soon as they happen, so we know 



BILLETS : LIFE AT BACK OF FRONT 271 

there's been no real " breaking through " that 
hasn't been made good, or partially made good, 
because if there had, the dispositions all along the 
line would have had to be altered, and that has 
not happened. 

The ambulance trains are collecting the Ypres 
casualties straight from the convoys at Poperinghe, 
as we did at Ypres in October and November, and 
not through the Clearing Hospitals, which I be- 
lieve have had to move farther back. 

Wednesday, April 28th. — Here everything is as it 
has been for the last few days (except the weather, 
which is suddenly hot as summer), rather more 
casualties, but no rush, and the same crescendo of 
heavy guns. Some shells were dropped in a field 
just outside the town at 8.30 yesterday evening 
but did no damage. 

Thursday, April 2gth, 4 p.m. — The weather and 
the evenings are indescribably incongruous. Tea 
in the garden at home, deck-chairs, and Sweep 
under the walnut-tree come into one's mind, and 
before one's eyes and ears are motor ambulances 
and stretchers and dressings, and the everlasting 
noise of marching feet, clattering hoofs, lorries, 
and guns, and sometimes the skirl of the pipes. 
One day there was a real band, and every one 
glowed and thrilled with the sound of it. 



272 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

I strayed into a concert at 5.30 this evening, 
given by the Glasgow Highlanders to a packed 
houseful of men and officers. I took good care to 
be shown into a solitary box next the stage, as I 
was alone and guessed that some of the items 
would not be intended for polite female ears. 
The level of the talent was a high one, some 
good part songs, and two real singers, and some 
quite funny and clever comic ; but one or two 
things made me glad of the shelter of my box. 
The choruses were fine. The last thing was a 
brilliant effort of the four part singers dressed as 
comic sailors, which simply made the house rock. 
Then suddenly, while they were still yelling, the 
first chords of the " King " were played, and all 
the hundreds stood to attention in a pin-drop 
silence while it was played — not sung — much more 
impressive than the singing of it, I thought. 

We have had some bad cases in to-day, and the 
boy with the lung is not doing so well. 

My second inoculation passed off very quickly, 
and I have not been off duty for it. 



X. 
With No. — Field Ambulance (2) 

FESTUBERT, May g and May 16 
May 6, 1915, to May 26, 1915 



" We have built a house that is not for Time's throwing- ; 
We have gained a peace unshaken by pain for ever. 
War knows no power. Safe shall be my going-, 
Secretly armed against all death's endeavour. 
Safe though all safety's lost ; safe where men fall ; 
And if these poor limbs die, safest of all." 

— Rupert Brooke. 



X. 

With No. — Field Ambulance (2). 

FESTUBERT, May 9 and May 16. 
May 6, 1915, to May 26, 1915. 

The noise of war — Preparation — Sunday, May 9 — The 
barge — The officers' dressing station — Charge of 
the Black Watch, May 9 — Festubert, May 16 — The 
French Hospital — A bad night — Shelled out — Back 
at a Clearing Hospital — " For duty at a Base 
Hospital." 

Thursday, May 6th, 3 a.m. — It was a very noisy 
day, and I didn't sleep after 2 p.m. There is a 
good lot of firing going on to-night. 

A very muddy officer of 6 ft. 4 was brought in 
early yesterday morning with a broken leg, and it 
is a hard job to get him comfortable in these short 
beds. 

Yesterday at 4 a.m. I couldn't resist invading 
the garden opposite which is the R.A. Head- 
quarters. It is full of lovely trees and flowers 
and birds. I found a blackbird's nest with one 



276 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

egg in. From the upper windows of this place it 
makes a perfect picture, with the peculiarly beauti- 
ful tower of the Cathedral as a background. 

Friday, May yth, i a.m. — The noise is worse than 
anywhere in London, even the King's Road. The 
din that a column of horse-drawn, bolt-rattling 
waggons make over cobbles is literally deafening ; 
you can't hear each other speak. And the big 
motor-lorries taking the "munitions of war" up 
are almost as bad. These processions alternate 
with marching troops, clattering horses, and 
French engines all day, and very often all night, 
and in the middle of it all there are the guns. To- 
night the rifle firing is crackling. 

Sir John French and Sir Douglas Haig have 
been up here to-day, and every one is telling 
every one else when the great Attack is going to 
begin. 

There are three field ambulances up here, and 
only work for two ( — th and — th), so the — th is 
established in a huge school for 500 boys, where 
it runs a great laundry and bathing establishment. 
A thousand men a day come in for bath, disin- 
fection, and clean clothes ; 100 French women do 
the laundry work in huge tubs, and there are big 
disinfectors and drying and ironing rooms. The 
men of the F.A. do the sorting and all the work 
except the washing and ironing. And the beauti- 



FESTUBERT, MAY gra and i6th 277 

fully-cared-for English cart-horses that belong to 
the F.A., and the waggons and the motor ambu- 
lances and the equipment, are all kept ready to 
move at a moment's notice. 

Colonel showed me all over it this evening. 

It is done at a cost to the Government of 7d. per 
man, washed and clothed. 

My blackbird has laid another egg. 

Friday, May Jth, 10 p.m. — A pitch-dark night, 
raining a little, and only one topic — the Attack to- 
morrow morning. 

The first R.A.M.C. barge has come up, and is 
lying in the canal ready to take on the cases of 
wounds of lung and abdomen, to save the jolting 
of road and railway ; it is to have two Sisters, but 
I haven't seen them yet : shall go in the morning : 
went round this morning to see, but the barge 
hadn't arrived. 

There are a few sick officers downstairs who are 
finding it hard to stick in their beds, with their 
regiments in this job close by. There is a house 
close by which I saw this morning with a dirty 
little red flag with a black cross on it, where the 
C.-in-C. and thirty commanders of the 1st Army 
met yesterday. 

The news to - day of Hill 60 and the gases 
is another spur to the grim resolve to break 
through here, that can be felt and seen and 



278 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

heard in every detail of every arm. " Grand- 
mother" is lovingly talked about. 

The town, the roads, and the canal banks 
this morning were so packed with men, 
waggons, horses, bales, and lorries, that you 
could barely pick your way between them. 

Since writing this an aeroplane has been 
circling over us with a loud buzz. The sergeant 
called up to me to put the lights out. We saw 
her light. There is much speculation as to 
who and what she was; she was not big 
enough for our big " 'Bus," as she is called, 
who belongs to this place. No one seems ever 
to have seen one here at night before. 

We are making flannel masks for the CO. 
for our men. 

Our fat little Gabrielle makes the most 
priceless soup out of the ration beef (which 
none of us are any good at) and carrots. She 
mothers us each individually, and cleans the 
house and keeps her wee kitchen spotless. 

4 a.m. — The 9.2's are just beginning to 
talk. 

Here is a true story. One of our trenches 
at Givenchy was being pounded by German 
shells at the time of N. Ch. A man saw his 
brother killed on one side of him and another 
man on the other. He went on shooting over 
the parapet ; then the parapet got knocked 



FESTUBERT, MAY 9 th and i6th 279 

about, and still he wasn't hit. He seized his 
brother's body and the other man's and built 
them up into the parapet with sandbags, and 
went on shooting. 

When the stress was over and he could leave 
off, he looked round and saw what he was 
leaning against. " Who did that ? " he said. 
And they told him. 

They get awfully sick at the big-print head- 
lines in some of the papers — " The Hill 60 
Thrill"! 

" Thrill, indeed ! There's nothing thrilling 
about ploughing over parapets into a machine- 
gun, with high explosives bursting round you, 
— it's merely beastly," said a boy this evening, 
who is all over shrapnel splinters. 

Saturday, May 8th, 9 a.m. — This is Der Tag. 
Could anybody go to bed and undress ? 

I have been cutting dressings all night. One 
of the most stabbing things in this war is see- 
ing the lines of empty motor ambulances going 
up to bring down the wrecks who at this 
moment are sound and fit, and all absolutely 
ready to be turned into wrecks. 

10.30 p.m. — Der Tag was a wash-out, but it 
is to begin at 1.15 to-night. (It didn't!) 

The tension is more up than ever. A boy 
who has just come in with a poisoned heel 



2 8o DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

(broken - hearted because he is out of it, while 
his battalion moves up) says, " You'll be having 
them in in cartloads over this." 

Sunday, May gth, 1.30 a.m. — The Lions are 
roaring in full blast and lighting up the sky. 

Have been busy to - night with an operation 
case who is needing a lot of special nursing, and 
some admissions — one in at 11 p.m., who was only 
wounded at 9 o'clock. I hope these magnificent 
roars and rumblings are making a mess of the 
barbed wire and German trenches. There seems 
to be a pretty general opinion that they will 
retaliate by dropping them into this place if 
they have time, and pulverising it like Ypres. 

5.25 a.m. — It has begun. It is awful — con- 
tinuous and earthquaking. 

9.30 a.m. — In bed. The last ten minutes of 
" Rapid " did its damnedest and then began 
again, and we are still thundering hell into 
the German lines. 

It began before 5 with a fearful pounding from 
the French on our right, and hasn't left off since. 

Had a busy night with my operation case 
and the others (he is doing fine), and in every 
spare second getting ready for the rush. The 
M.O.'s were astir very early; the A.D.M.S. 
came to count empty beds. It is to - night 
they'll be coming in. 



FESTUBERT, MAY gTH and i6th 281 

Must try and sleep. But who could yesterday 
and to-day? 

Monday, May ioth } 9.30 a.m. — We have had 
a night of it. Every Field Ambulance, barge, 
Clearing Hospital, and train are blocked with 
them. The M.O.'s neither eat nor sleep. I got 
up early yesterday and went down to the barge to 
see if they wanted any extra help (as the other 
two were coping with the wounded officers), and 
had a grim afternoon and evening there. One 
M.O., no Sisters, four trained orderlies, and 
some other men were there. It was packed 
with all the worst cases — dying and bleeding 
and groaning. After five hours we had three- 
fourths of them out of their blood - soaked 
clothes, dressed, fed, haemorrhage stopped, hands 
and faces washed, and some asleep. Two died, 
and more were dying. They all worked like bricks. 
The M.O., and another from the other barge 
which hadn't filled up, sent up to the O.D.S., 
when my hour for night duty there came, to 
ask if I could stay, and got leave. At n p.m. 
four Sisters arrived (I don't know how — they'd 
been wired for), two for each barge; so I 
handed over to them and went to the O.D.S. 
to relieve the other two there for night duty. 
The place was unrecognisable : every corner of 
every floor filled with wounded officers — some 



282 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

sitting up and some all over wounds, and three 
dying and others critical ; and they still kept 
coming in. They were all awfully good strew- 
ing about the floor — some soaked to the skin 
from wet shell holes — on their stretchers, wait- 
ing to be put to bed. 

One had had " such a jolly Sunday afternoon " 
lying in a shell hole with six inches of water 
in it and a dead man, digging himself in deeper 
with his trench tool whenever the shells burst 
near him. He was hit in the stomach. 

One officer saw the enemy through a peri- 
scope sniping at our wounded. 

4 p.m. — In bed. It seems quiet to-day ; there 
are so few guns to be heard, and not so many 
ambulances coming. All except the hopeless 
cases will have been evacuated by now from 
all the Field Hospitals. There was a block 
last night, and none could be sent on. The 
Clearing Hospitals were full, and no trains in. 

Those four Sisters from the base had a weird 
arrival at the barge last night in a car at n p.m. 
It was a black dark night, big guns going, 
and a sudden descent down a ladder into that 
Nelson's cockpit. They were awfully bucked 
when we said, " Oh, I am glad you have 
come." They buckled to and set to work 
right off. The cook, who had been helping 
magnificently in the ward, was running after 



FESTUBERT, MAY qth and i6th 283 

me with hot cocoa (breakfast was my last meal, 
except a cup of tea), and promised to give them 
some. One wounded of the Munsters there 
said he didn't mind nothink now, — he'd seen 
so many dead Germans as he never thought on. 
As always, they have lost thousands, but they 
come on like ants. 

They have only had about seven new cases 
to-day at the O.D.S., but two of last night's 
have died. A Padre was with them. 

They had no market this morning, for fear 
of bombs from aeroplanes. There's been no 
shelling into the town. 

Tuesday, May nth, 6.30 p.m. — In bed. I 
went to bed pretty tired this morning after an 
awful night (only a few of the less seriously 
wounded had been evacuated yesterday, and all 
the worst ones, of course, left), and slept like 
a top from 10.30 to 5, and feel as fit as any- 
thing after it. 

The fighting seems to have stopped now, and 
no more have come in to - day. Last night a 
stiff muddy figure, all bandages and straw, on 
the stretcher was brought in. I asked the boy 
how many wounds ? " Oh, only five," he said 
cheerfully. " Nice clean wounds, — machine- 
gun, — all in and out again ! " 

The Padre came at 7.30 and had a Celebra- 



284 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

tion in each ward, but I was too busy to take 
any notice of it. 

One of these officers was hit by a German 
shell on Sunday morning early, soon after our 
bombardment began. He crawled about till 
he was hit again twice by other shells, and then 
lay there all that day and all that night, with 
one drink from another wounded's water-bottle ; 
every one else was either dead or wounded 
round him. Next morning his servant found 
him and got stretcher-bearers, and he got here. 

I don't know how they live through that. 

Wednesday, May 12th, 6.30 p.m. — Slept very 
well. I hear from Gabrielle that they have had 
a hard day at the O.D.S. ; no new cases, but all 
the bad ones very ill. 

My little room is crammed with enormous 
lilac, white and purple, from our wee garden, 
which I am going to take to our graves to- 
morrow in jam tins. 

Thursday, May 13th, 11 A.M. — Can't face the 
graves to-day; have had an awful night; three 
died during the night. I found the boy who 
brought his officer in from between the German 
line and ours, on Sunday night, crying this 
morning over the still figure under a brown 
blanket on a stretcher. 



FESTUBERT, MAY qth and i6th 285 

Of the other two, brought straight in from 
the other dressing station, one only lived long 
enough to be put to bed, and the other died 
on his stretcher in the hall. 

The O.C. said last night, "Now this War has 
come we've got to tackle it with our gloves off," 
but it takes some tackling. It seems so much 
nearer, and more murderous somehow in this 
Field Ambulance atmosphere even than it did 
on the train with all the successive hundreds. 

We can see Notre Dame de Lorette from here ; 
the Chapel and Fort stand high up in that flat 
maze of slag-heaps, mine-heads, and sugar-fac- 
tories just behind the line on the right. 

9 p.m., O.D.S. — Everything very quiet here. 

A gunner just admitted says there will prob- 
ably be another big bombardment to - morrow 
morning, and after that another attack, and 
after that I suppose some more for us. 

Another says that the charge of the Black 
Watch on Sunday was a marvellous thing. 
They went into it playing the pipes ! The 
Major who led it handed somebody his stick, 
as he " probably shouldn't want it again." 

It is very wet to-night, but they go up to 
the trenches singing Ragtime, some song about 
" We are always — respected — wherever we go." 
And another about " Sing a song — a song with 
me. Come along — along with me." 



2 86 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

ii p.m. — Just heard a shell burst, first the 
whistling scream, and then the bang — wonder 
where ? There was another about an hour ago, 
but I didn't hear the whistle of that — only the 
bang. I shouldn't have known what the whistle 
was if I hadn't heard it at Braisne. It goes in 
a curve. All the men on the top floor have been 
sent down to sleep in the cellar ; another shell 
has busted. 

12.15. — Just had another, right overhead; all 
the patients are asleep, luckily. 

1.30 p.m. — There was one more, near enough 
to make you jump, and a few more too far off 
to hear the whistling. A sleepy major has just 
waked up and said, " Did you hear the shells ? 
Blackguards, aren't they ? " 

The sky on the battle line to - night is the 
weirdest sight; our guns are very busy, and 
they are making yellow flashes like huge sheets 
of summer lightning. Then the star-shells rise, 
burst, and light up a large area, while a big 
searchlight plays slowly on the clouds. It is 
all very beautiful when you don't think what 
it means. 

Two more — the last very loud and close. It 
is somehow much more alarming than Braisne, 
perhaps because it is among buildings, and be- 
cause one knows so much more what they mean. 

Another — the other side of the building. 



FESTUBERT, MAY gTH and i6th 287 

An ambulance has been called out, so some 
one must have been hit ; I've lost count of how 
many they've dropped, but they could hardly 
fail to do some damage. 

5 a.m. — Daylight — soaking wet, and no more 
shells since 2 a.m. We have admitted seven 
officers to-night ; the last — just in — says there 
have been five people wounded in the town by 
this peppering — one killed. I don't know if 
civilians or soldiers. 

That bombardment on Sunday morning was 
the biggest any one has ever heard, — more 
guns on smaller space, and more shells per 
minute. 

Nine officers have " died of wounds " here 
since Sunday, and the tenth will not live to see 
daylight. There is an attack on to-night. This 
has been a ghastly week, and now it is beginning 
again. 

The other two Sisters had quite a nasty time 
last night lying in bed, waiting for the shells 
to burst in their rooms. They do sound 
exactly as if they are coming your way and 
nowhere else ! 

I rather think they are dropping some in again 
to-night, but they are not close enough to hear 
the whistle, only the bangs. 

There is an officer in to-night with a wound 
in the hand and shoulder from a shell which 



288 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

killed eleven of his men, and another who went 
to see four of his platoon in a house at the exact 
moment when a percussion shell went on the 
same errand; the whole house sat down, and 
the five were wounded — none killed. 

Saturday, May i$th, 10 p.m. — Tension up again 
like last Saturday. Another TAG is happening 
to-morrow. Every one except three sick down- 
stairs has been evacuated, and they have made 
accommodation for iooo at the French Hospital, 
which is the 4th F.A. main dressing station, and 
headquarters. All officers, whether seriously or 
slightly* wounded, are to be taken there to be 
dressed by the M.O.'s in the specially-arranged 
dressing-rooms, and then sent on to us to be 
put to bed and coped with. 

Now we have got some French batteries of 
75's in our lines to pound the earthworks which 
protect the enemy's buried machine-guns, which 
are the most murderous and deadly of all their 
clever arrangements, and to stop up the holes 
through which they are fired. We have also 
got more Divisions in it along the same front, 
and our heavy guns and all our batteries in 
better positions. 

Some more regiments have been called up in 
a hurry, and empty ammunition-carts are gallop- 
ping back already. 



FESTUBERT, MAY gTH and i6th 289 

This morning I took some white lilac to the 
graves of our 12 officers who " died of wounds." 
Their names and regiments were on their crosses, 
and "Died of wounds. — F.A.," and R.I. P. It 
was better to see them like that Pro Patria 
than in those few awful days here. 

10.30. — Just admitted a gunner suffering from 
shock alone — no wound — completely knocked 
out ; he can't tell you his name, or stand, or 
even sit up, but just shivers and shudders. Now 
he is warm in bed, he can say "Thank you." 
I wonder what exactly did it. 

The arrangements the — F.A. happen to have 
the use of at the French Hospital, with its 
up-to-date modern operating theatre for tack- 
ling the wounds in a strictly aseptic and scientific 
way within a few hours of the men being hit, 
are a tremendous help. 

Certainly the ones who pass through No. — 
get a better chance of early recovery without 
long complications than most of those we got on 
the train. And while they are awaiting evacu- 
ation to the Clearing Hospitals they have every 
chance, both here and at the French Hospital, 
where all the trained orderlies except two are 
on duty, and practically all the M.O.'s. But, 
of course, there are a great many of the seri- 
ously wounded that no amount of aseptic and 
skilled surgery or nursing can save. 

T 



290 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

Sunday, 11.30 a.m. May 16th. — They began 
coming in at 3.30, and by 8 a.m. the place was 
full to bursting. We managed to get all the 
stretcher cases to bed, and as many of the others 
as we had beds for, without sending for the other 
two Sisters, who came on at 8.15, and are now 
coping. Most of them were very cheery, be- 
cause things seem to be going well. Two lines 
of trenches taken, all the wire cut, and some of 
the earthworks down ; but it is always an ex- 
pensive business even when successful — only then 
nobody minds the expense. There are hundreds 
more to come in, and the seriously wounded 
generally get brought in last, because they can't 
get up and run, but have to hide in trenches 
and shell holes. One man, wounded on Sunday 
and found on Friday night, had kept himself alive 
on dead men's emergency rations. They were 
all sopping wet with blood or mud or both. 

The lost heavily. I heard one officer say, 

" They drove us back five times." 

After breakfast I went to the Cathedral, and 
then boldly bearded the big dressing station at 
the French Hospital, where all the dressings 
are done and the men evacuated, armed with a 
huge linen bag of cigarettes, chocolate, and 
writing-cases which came last night. I met 
the CO., who said I could have a look round, 
and then rowed me for not being in bed, and 






FESTUBERT, MAY gTH and i6th 291 

said we should be busy to-night and for some 
time. It was very interesting, and if you 
brought your reason to bear on it, not too 
horrible. 

Every corridor, waiting-room, ward, and pas- 
sage was filled with them, the stretchers waiting 
their turn on the floors, and the walking cases 
(which on the A.T. we used to call the sitting-ups) 
in groups and queues. No one was fussing, but 
all were working at full pitch ; and very few 
of the men were groaning, but nearly all were 
gruesomely covered with blood. And they look 
pretty awful on the bare gory stretchers, with no 
pillows or blankets, just as they are picked up 
on the field. Many are asleep from exhaustion. 

What cheered me was one ward full of last 
Sunday's bad cases, all in bed, and very cheery 
and doing well. They loved the writing-cases, 
&c, and said it was like Xmas, and they 
wouldn't want to leave 'ere now. 

A great many of this morning's had already 
been evacuated, and they were still pouring in. 
One has to remember that a great many get 
quite well, though many have a ghastly time in 
store for them in hospital. 

The barge is in the canal again taking in 
the non-jolters. 

Some stalwart young Tommies at No. 4 were 
talking about the prisoners. They told me 



292 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

there weren't many taken, because they found 
one in a Jock's uniform. 

I've drawn my curtain so that I can't see those 
hateful motor ambulances coming in slowly full, 
and going back empty fast, and must go to sleep. 
I simply loathe the sight of those M.A.'s, admir- 
able inventions though they are. Had a look 
into a lovely lorry full of ioo-lb. shells in The 
square. 

7 p.m. — Only one officer has died at the O.D.S. 
to-day, but there are two or three who will die. 
They have evacuated, and filled up three times 
already. 

The news from the "scene of operations" is 
still good, so they are all still cheerful. The 
difference to the wounded that makes is extra- 
ordinary. That is why last Sunday's show was 
such a black blight to them and to us. 

Monday, May ijth, 10 a.m. — Another night of 
horrors ; one more died, and two young boys 
came in who will die; one is a Gordon High- 
lander of 18, who says " that's glorious " when 
you put him to bed. 

It was a long whirl of stretchers, and pitiful 
heaps on them. The sergeant stayed up help- 
ing till 3, and a boy from the kitchen stayed 
up all night on his own, helping. 



FESTUBERT, MAY c/th and i6th 293 

In the middle of the worst rush the sergeant 
said to me, "You know they're shelling the 
town again ? " and at that minute swoop bang 
came a big one; and we looked at each other 
over the stretcher with the same picture in our 
mind's eyes of shells dropping in amongst the 
wounded, who are all over the town. I hadn't 
heard them — too busy — but they didn't go on 
long. 

The Boches have been heavily shelling our 
trenches all day. 

One boy said suddenly, when I was attending 
to his leg, " Aren't you very foolish to be staying 
up here ? " " Oh, sorry," he said ; " I was dream- 
ing you were in the front line of trenches bandag- 
ing people up ! " 

Our big guns have been making the building 
shake all night. The Germans are trying to 
get their trenches back by counter-attacking. 

Tuesday, May i&th, is it? 1 A.M., in bed. — It 
has been about the worst night of all the worst 
nights. I found the wards packed with bad 
cases, the boy of 18 dead, and the other boy 
died half an hour after I came on. Two more 
died during the night, two lots were evacuated, 
and had to be dug out of their fixings -up in 
bed and settled on stretchers, and all night they 

T 2 



294 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

brought fresh ones in, drenched and soaked with 
clayey mud in spadefuls, and clammy with 
cold. 

Wednesday, May igth, 12 noon. — Mr has 

been working at No. — at full pitch for twenty- 
four hours on end, and had just got into bed 
when they sent for him there again. They are 
all nearly dead, and so are the orderlies at both 
places ; but they never dream of grousing or 
shirking, as they know there's not another man 
to be had. 

Two more officers died last night, and three 
more were dying. 

The Padre came and had a Celebration in my 
ward. Three R.A.M.C. officers are in badly 
wounded. They are extraordinarily good. 

Friday, 21st May, 3 a.m. — Last night the rush 
began to abate ; no one died, and only one came 
in — a general smash-up ; he died to-night, and 
a very dear boy died to-day. I've lost count 
now of how many have died, — I think about 
twenty-four. 

The Guards' Brigade here went by to-night 
from the trenches to rest, singing " Here we are 
again," and the song about " The girls declare 
I am a funny man ! " 

11 a.m. — The little Canadian Sister has just 



FESTUBERT, MAY qth and i6th 295 

been recalled, I'm sorry to say, but probably we 
shall get another one. Five Canadian officers 
came in last night. The guns are making the 
dickens of a noise, very loud and sudden. Yester- 
day they shelled the town again, and two more 
soldats anglais were wounded. 

Saturday, May 22nd, 6.30 a.m. — Things have 
been happening at a great pace since the above, 
and we are now in our camp-beds in an empty 
attic at the top of an old chateau about three 
miles back, which is No. — C.H., at . 

Just as I was thinking of getting up yesterday 
evening they began putting shells over into the 
town, and soon they were raining in three at 
a. time. My little room here is a sort of lean-to 
over the kitchen with no room above it; so I 
cleared out to dress in one of the others, and 
didn't stop to wash. Gabrielle came running 
up to fetch me downstairs. At the hospital, 
which was only about 200 yards down the road, 
the wounded officers were thinking it was about 

time Capt. moved his Field Ambulance. One 

boy by the window had got some debi'is in his eye 
from the nearest shell, which burst in my black- 
bird's garden, or rather on the doorstep op- 
posite. (That was the one that got me out of 
bed rather rapidly.) The orders soon came to 
evacuate all the patients. At the French Hos- 



296 diary of a nursing sister 

pital, about six minutes away, three wounded 
had been hit in a M.A. coming in, and the 
Officers' Mess had one (none of them were in), 
and they were dropping all round it. Then 
the order came from the D.D.M.S. to the 
A.D.M.S. to evacuate the whole of the — th, 
— th, and — th Field Ambulances, and within 
about two hours this was done. 

Everybody got the patients ready, fixed up 
their dressings and splints, gave them all 
morphia, and got them on to their stretchers. 

The evacuation was jolly well done; their 
servants appeared by magic, each with every spot 
of kit and belongings his officer came in with 
(they are in all cases checked by the Sergeant on 
admission, no matter what the rush is), and the 
place was empty in an hour. The din of our 
guns, which were bombarding heavily, and the 
German guns, which are bombarding us at a 
great pace, and the whistle and bang of the 
shells that came over while this was going on, 
was a din to remember. 

Then we went back to our billet to hurl our 
belongings into our baggage, and came away with 
the A.D.M.S. and his Staff-Major in their two 
touring-cars. The Division is back resting some- 
where near here. We got to bed about 2 a.m. 
after tea and bread and butter downstairs, but 
slept very little owing to the noise of the guns, 



FESTUBERT, MAY gra and i6th 297 

which shake and rattle the windows every 
minute. 

We don't know what happens next. 

At about four this morning I heard a nightin- 
gale trilling in the garden. 

2 p.m. — In the Chateau garden. It is a glorious 
spot, with kitchen garden, park, moat bridge, and 
a huge wilderness up-and-down plantation round 
it, full of lilac, copper beeches, and flowering 
trees I've never seen before, and birds and 
butterflies and buttercups. You look across and 
see the red -brick Chateau surrounded by thick 
lines of tents, and hear the everlasting incessant 
thudding and banging of the guns, and realise 
that it is not a French country house but a 
Casualty Clearing Hospital, with empty — once 
polished — floors filled with stretchers, where the 
worst cases still are, and some left empty for 
the incoming convoys. Over two thousand have 
passed through since Sunday week. The con- 
trast between the shady garden where I'm 
lazing now on rugs and cushions, with in- 
numerable birds, including a nightingale, singing 
and nesting, and the nerve-racking sound of the 
guns and the look of the place inside, is over- 
whelming. It is in three Divisions — the house 
for the worst cases — and there are tent Sections 
and the straw-sheds and two schools in the 
village. We had our lunch at a sort of inn 



298 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

in the village. I've never hated the sound of 
the guns so much ; they are almost unbearable. 

It is a good thing for us to have this sudden 
rest. I don't know for how long or what happens 
next. 

The General of the Division had a narrow 
escape after we left last night. The roof of his 
house was blown off, just at the time he would 
have been there, only he was a little late, but an 
officer was killed ; six shells came into the garden, 
and the seventh burst at his feet and killed him 
as he was standing at the door. I'm glad they 
got the wounded away in time. Aeroplanes are 
buzzing overhead. The Aerodrome is here, 
French monoplanes chiefly as far as one can see. 

10 P.M., in bed. — We have now been tempor- 
arily attached to the Staff here. 

Miss has given me charge of the Tent 

Section, which can take eighty lying down. 

Whitsunday, 1915. — In bed — in my tent, not a 
bell, but an Indian tent big enough for two 

comfortably. I share with S . We have 

nothing but the camp furniture we took out, 
but will acquire a few Red Cross boxes as 
cupboards to-morrow. It is a peerless night 
with a young moon and a soft wind, frogs 
croaking, guns banging, and a nightingale 
trilling. 



FESTUBERT, MAY 9 th and i6th 299 

It has been a funny day, dazzling sun, very 
few patients. 

Whit- Monday. — Very few in to-day again. I 
have only six, and am making the most of the 
chance of a rest in the garden ; one doesn't 
realise till after a rush how useful a rest can 
be. There has been a .fearful bombardment 
going on all last night and yesterday and 
to-day ; it is a continual roar, and in the night 
is maddening to listen to ; you can't forget the 
war. Mosquitoes, nightingales, frogs, and two 
horses also helped to make the night interest- 
ing. 

8.30 p.m. — Waiting for supper. Wounded have 
been coming in, and we've had a busy afternoon 
and evening. 

Wednesday, May 26th. — No time to write 
yesterday ; had a typical Clearing Hospital 
Field Day. The left-out-in-the-field wounded 
(mostly Canadians) had at last been picked up 
and came pouring in. I had my Tent Section 
of eighty beds nearly full, and we coped in a 
broiling sun till we sweltered into little spots 
of grease, finishing up with five operations in 
the little operating tent. 

The poor exhausted Canadians were extra- 
ordinarily brave and uncomplaining. They are 



300 DIARY OF A NURSING SISTER 

evacuated the same day or the next morning, 
such as can be got away to survive the journey, 
but some of the worst have to stay. 

In the middle of it all at 5 p.m. orders came for 
me to join No. — Ambulance Train for duty, but 
I didn't leave till this morning at nine, and am 
now on No. — A.T. on way down to old 
Boulogne again. 

Later. — These orders were afterwards cancelled, 
and I am for duty at a Base Hospital. 



THE END. 



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